With Winter fast approaching, along with the dreary days and cooler nights, comes an increase of sniffles, coughs, and sore throats all around us. We all have to take extra precaution to avoid getting sick, but pregnant women have a tougher job with immune system changes during pregnancy. Not only can the compromised immune system make these women more vulnerable to unpleasant colds and flus, but there are some infections that can be harmful or even fatal to their growing babe.
We have a plethora of effective immune-boosters and cold-busters, but the biggest question I get from my pregnant patients is, “Is is safe?”, and certainly not all treatments are. Here are some of my favourite immune boosting tips that are both safe and effective in pregnancy:
- Proper Hygiene: Of course this is at the top of the list! Better to avoid exposure in the first place than have to make the immune system work in overdrive. Washing hands regularly, avoiding others who are sick, and trying to make a conscious effort to not touch your face or eyes during or after you’ve been in a public place are all good practices to keep in mind.
- Sleep and Nutrition: Getting the baselines to nourish your body and strengthen your immune system is essential. At least eight hours of sleep a night is a necessity. Studies show that the immune system is significantly stronger after eight hours versus seven or six hours. Make sure to nourish your body with a variety of vegetables in all colours. Add in some bone broth for even more nutrients and immune-boosting properties!
- Garlic: This is a classic example of letting food be your medicine. Garlic is anti-microbial, anti-bacterial, and anti-viral! One of my favourite “recipes” to recommend is chopped garlic, grated ginger, and lemon juice in a “tea” – great to nip any cold in the bud.
- Probiotics: These helpful living colonies of bacteria play a huge role in pregnancy for both the health of mom and babe (not just while in utero, but also reducing risk of certain conditions even when outside the womb!). Probiotics have been studied to reduce the duration and intensity of both the common cold and the flu. There are certain strains and doses to make sure to include, so make sure to chat with your ND about what’s best for you.
- Echinacea: One of the few herbs for the immune system that has been shown to be completely safe in pregnancy. This anti-viral herb is a must when keeping colds and flus at bay. Start off with echinacea tea (maybe add some of that garlic/ginger/lemon juice from above) and see if that’s enough on it’s own to fight off a threat. For higher dosing and forms, check in with your ND to make sure it’s safe for you.
- Vitamin D: When vitamin D levels are low, everyone’s susceptibility to infections goes up. Coming off of the summer months, your vitamin D levels should be the highest they are all year, thanks to our direct sun exposure. Starting to supplement vitamin D in the Fall months is generally a good idea to maintain your levels through until next summer, but it’s important to know where your starting point is. Through a blood test, you can find out your baseline so that you know exactly how much to supplement with so you can optimize your levels.
These tips are all good places to start, but a discussion with your Naturopathic Doctor is always best. There are other herbs and supplements that can be very helpful, but have to be given at the right time of pregnancy, at the right dose, and in the right form. Above all, make sure to be taking the time to slow down and have self-care. Our bodies can only catch up with us so much, so allow that downtime for the immune system to do its thing!
Written by Dr. Laura Smith, Naturopathic Doctor. Dr Laura has a clinical focus in women’s health including fertility and pre/postnatal health. She currently lives and works in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
Disclaimer – Everything shared is for informative purposes only. It is not intended for assessment, diagnosis or treatment purposes. If you feel there needs to be further investigation, please seek out a qualified health care professional for a proper assessment.