Bronchitis can be a painful, persistent condition for anyone to deal with, but it poses a unique set of risks to pregnant women. In addition to creating respiratory issues for the mother-to-be, bronchitis during pregnancy can create potential problems for the fetus, who needs to be receiving certain levels of oxygen to remain healthy.
What’s worse is that pregnant women are actually more susceptible to this condition than others, since the effects of pregnancy temporarily weaken a woman’s immune system. Here is a quick overview of what you need to know about dealing with bronchitis during pregnancy. However, if you suspect that you are suffering from bronchitis, it’s important to consult with your doctor as soon as possible.
What is bronchitis?
Bronchitis is the inflammation of the two largest airways leading from the mouth to the lungs. It occurs when small particles, such as cigarette smoke, chemical fumes, cleaning fumes, or dust particles, enter the throat and irritate the mucous membrane, resulting in thicker and greater amounts of mucous buildup in the throat. It can also be caused by a mucous buildup as a result of a cold, influenza, or asthma. This buildup can lead to difficult or painful breathing, coughing, chest pains, and fatigue.
How can bronchitis affect pregnancy?
When a person is dealing with an illness, her risk for other illnesses increases, since the immune system is diverting most of its energy to fighting the original sickness. This is doubly true for pregnant women whose immune systems are already compromised, and in serious cases, bronchitis may develop into pneumonia. In addition to jeopardizing the health of a pregnant mother, this condition puts the child at risk of premature birth and a low birth weight. As mentioned earlier, bronchitis can make it difficult to give necessary levels of oxygen to the fetus. Bronchitis can also be accompanied by high fever, which puts the child at risk of serious conditions such as spina bifida or even death.
There are two types of bronchitis: acute and chronic. In short, acute bronchitis is caused by viruses or bacteria as listed earlier and is treated by reducing the present symptoms, drinking fluids and electrolytes, and waiting for the virus to resolve itself, which often does not take long. The infection is fairly low-risk, and doesn't pose many major dangers during pregnancy to the mother or the child, though medical professionals should still be sought in cases of bronchitis during pregnancy.
Chronic bronchitis is a more serious ordeal. This form of bronchitis can last for several months or even years. Mucous may be discolored, and trace amounts of blood may be present. The infection is recurring, and can cause lung damage, which often results in lung transplants or other surgeries. Chronic bronchitis can lead to major complications due to the sheer length of time that a case can last.
How is bronchitis treated in pregnant patients?
Antibiotics are a common method for treating bronchitis, but when it comes to pregnant women, they may not be the best choice. Certain types of antibiotics, including doxycycline and minocycline, may cause liver damage during pregnancy, and they may also discolor a fetus’s teeth in utero. Because of this, many doctors will suggest rest and home care for mild cases of bronchitis during pregnancy. However, if the condition worsens, antibiotics may be necessary for the safety of both the mother and her child.
At the first suspicions of bronchitis, a doctor should be consulted and anything that can irritate the throat must be avoided. This means that cleaning supplies should be avoided, cigarettes should be banned, and any activities which involve heavy breathing should be done with care. Smoking while pregnant increases the risk of chronic bronchitis and other chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases developing in the child.
Fluids should be heavily consumed, and anything that can help weaken or reduce the mucous buildup in the throat will help. Hot showers, humidifiers, or tea and honey can all assist in reducing symptoms. Propping the head up while sleeping can also reduce mucous buildup upon awakening, and medications, such as antibiotics, should be discussed with your doctor.