The body’s defense mechanism – the immune system, is one of the most compromised systems during pregnancy. This is why pregnant women are more prone to diseases and infections. However, there are different means to boost immunity during pregnancy.
Given the pandemic, a lot of stress has been laid on the immunity of a person, pregnant or not. A strong immune system entails a stronger body and a greater resistance to germs and viruses that can make you sick.
And that is not something anyone wants to go through during pregnancy.
Why Is Immune System Low During Pregnancy?
Initially, it was believed that the immune system weakens during pregnancy to avoid the mother’s body rejecting the fetus believing it as a foreign body. However, according to recent research, it is found that pregnancy alters the immune system (strengthens it and weakens it), and this alteration of the immune system is perfectly timed to achieve the best result.
According to one of the studies, the implantation site’s immune system is not at all suppressed during the early stage of pregnancy. On the other hand, it is highly active and functional and is carefully controlled.
For successful implantation, immune cells have to rush into the lining of the implantation site. Inflammation in the lining makes implantation easier. This active state of the immune system can last up to the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. The immune system that stays active helps the fetus to get fully established.
However, during the subsequent 15 weeks, the immune system of the mother is suppressed. Low immune system during this phase of pregnancy is important for the fetal cells to grow and develop. Or else, the body may show a tendency to reject the new life forming inside it.
Again, the aggressive immune system comes back towards the end of the gestation as you approach the delivery dates. Again the immune cells rush to the lining of the womb bringing about inflammation that helps with the labour response.
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Do You Get Sick More Often When Pregnant?
Pregnancy increases the chances of contracting common infections like cold, sore throat, cough, stuffed nose, fever, flu, stomach bug, urinary tract infections, yeast infections, etc. That is why you can get sick more when pregnant than before.
This is because the immune system is in an altered state. This altered state of the immune system results in increased vulnerability to certain viral, bacterial and parasitic infections.
How To Boost Immunity During Pregnancy?
It is impossible to avoid all sources of illness during pregnancy. A pregnant woman’s body changes drastically and each body reacts differently in this delicate phase. However, there are natural ways to boost immunity during pregnancy which can have a pronounced effect on your well-being and health.
Here are 11 simple ways to boost your immunity while pregnant
1. Boost immunity during pregnancy by staying hydrated
It is important to stay well hydrated during pregnancy. Drinking plenty of water during pregnancy is not only important to meet the increased requirement of water, it is also important to take your immunity to the next level.
The lymphatic system is a simple system that plays an important role in immunity. The fluid that is flowing through this system is called lymph. Lymph carries infection-fighting immune cells called white blood cells all through the body.
Unlike the circulatory system, the lymphatic system has no pump (like a heart) and water is the major component of the lymph. Dehydration is found to slow down the movement of the lymph. Therefore, staying well hydrated helps to boost immunity during pregnancy.
2. Eat well
Rely on foods to boost immunity during pregnancy. Many plant-based foods are well-known for their antiviral and antimicrobial properties. Include lots of seasonal fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spices in your daily menu.
Make sure you are eating food rich in Vitamin B6, C and E, as these are vital vitamins when it comes to boosting immunity during pregnancy. Try to include all the food groups – whole grains, nuts, fruits and vegetables, meats and beans, eggs, and dairy- in the daily menu.
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You should know that-
- Healthy fats in salmon and olives help to boost immunity
- Whole plant foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes help to enhance immunity
- Eating a handful of almonds regularly could help to boost immunity
- Foods rich in protein is also vital to increase immunity during pregnancy. It helps to build and repair body tissue and fight off viral and bacterial infection
- Chicken, salmon, tuna, bananas, green vegetables and potatoes provide Vitamin B6
- Citrus fruits like oranges and strawberries, tomatoes, broccoli and spinach provide vitamin C
- Peanuts, sunflower seeds, sunflower oil, are rich in vitamin E
3. Probiotics can help boost immunity
Many studies show that the intake of probiotics helps to promote immunity. Probiotics are good bacteria that help to inhibit the growth of harmful gut bacteria. The good bacteria in the gut are helpful in enhancing digestion and fighting harmful bacteria that enter the gut.
Thus, including probiotics helps to boost the immune system. Fermented food likes yoghurt and pickled vegetables are excellent natural probiotics.
4. Follow hygiene rules
Although absolutely important in recent times, hygiene is something that should not be compromised whether corona is there or not. When it comes to fighting germs during pregnancy, the first line of defence is to follow good personal hygiene habits.
Wash your hands frequently with soap water. In case water and soap are not available, you can use an alcohol-based hand rub or hand sanitiser.
Try to avoid getting exposed to patients with infectious disease. Wear a mask while going to public places. Strictly follow food safety while eating outside or preparing food in your kitchen.
5. A good sleep boosts immunity
Even though sleeping does not seem like an active process, lots of activities are happening in the body while sleeping. Many of these activities will not happen while you are awake, definitely not as efficiently as they happen during sleeping.
Important infection-fighting molecules are also created while you are sleeping. Studies have shown that people who don’t get enough quality sleep are more prone to getting infections like a common cold.
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Even though the occasional sleepless nights make you feel tired the next day, they won’t harm your immunity or health. On the other hand, several sleepless nights can impair immunity significantly.
6. Exercise during pregnancy to stay healthy
Staying physically active is one of the ways to boost immunity during pregnancy. Exercise increases overall circulation. This helps the immune cells to reach different parts of the body fast.
According to many studies, exercise helps to boost immunity. Getting involved in mere 30 minutes of moderate- exercise every day can do wonders for your immune system. This means it’s important to focus on staying active and doing regular exercise during pregnancy.
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There are vaccinations available for many serious infections. Making use of these vaccinations after discussing with the doctor helps to boost immunity during pregnancy.
8. Eating garlic during pregnancy can help boost immunity
Garlic is well known for its therapeutic and medicinal properties. It has many positive effects on the health of a person. Garlic contains many viruses fighting compounds. Eating garlic during pregnancy is one of the natural ways to boost immunity during pregnancy.
Always try to keep a positive attitude. Stress affects your immunity levels adversely. Having said that, stress is a part and parcel of our daily lives – we cant do away with it but can try to manage it.
Try to practice relaxation techniques like meditation, yoga breathing exercises, listening to soothing music or anything else that works as a stress buster for you. Figure out ways to combat stress.
Also, make use of any circumstance that makes you laugh a lot. According to studies, laughing boosts the immune system. Muscle movement while laughing increases the flow of lymph through the lymphatic system. Laughing also found to decrease stress hormones.
10. Don’t miss your supplements
Not all the vitamins and minerals will be included in prenatal vitamins. They usually contain only the fundamental nutrients. If you think your food lacks some vital minerals and vitamins, you can talk with your doctor and take supplements he suggests.
Word of caution- do not take supplements without guidance from the doctor.
Some of the supplements other than the usual prenatal vitamins a pregnant woman need to boost their immunity are Vitamin E, D, C, B and A. Selenium, zinc, and quercetin. However, it is the doctors call, and it is the doctor who decides the supplement and its dosage.
Massaging improves the circulation of blood and lymph throughout the body. It is excellent to reduce stress. Studies show a regular 45-minute massage can increase the number of lymphocytes and improve its actions evidently. Lymphocytes are white blood cells that play a large role in immunity.
In another trial expecting mothers were split into two groups. One group receives 70 minutes of aromatherapy massage every other week. The second group receives no massage at all.
While evaluating and comparing the results, it was found that the first group not only shows an evident reduction in stress hormone cortisol but also shows an evident increase in immune markers. Thus, aromatherapy massages enhance immunity in pregnant women.
Do Prenatal Vitamins Boost the Immune System?
Intake of prenatal vitamins is very important to boost the immune system and to satisfy special nutrition requirements during pregnancy. No matter how much care you give to your pregnancy diet, food alone will not be able to supply all the vitamins and minerals in the required quantity in most cases.
Intake of prenatal vitamins during pregnancy helps to make sure the daily nutrition requirement is fulfilled. It will compensate for the deficient nutrients in the food you eat.
Related Reading: 9 Common Pregnancy Aches and Pains With Remedies
However, it is not advisable to take OTC vitamins and mineral supplements as it is the doctor who should chart the prenatal vitamins for you. Anything, even vitamins and minerals in excess carry their consequences as well.
For example, regular multi-vitamins contain too much vitamin A. It is found that too much intake of vitamin A increases the risk of birth defects. In prenatal vitamins specially formulated for pregnant women, vitamin A comes in the form of beta carotene.
Thus, prenatal vitamin intake is very important for the healthy progression of the fetus’s healthy development. Many vitamins and minerals in prenatal vitamins like vitamin C, iron, and zinc are essential for boosting the immune system as well.
Can Getting Sick While Pregnant Hurt The Baby?
Common infections like cold, flu, throat infections etc., will not harm the baby in the womb. Yet, even these small infections can be very uncomfortable for the mother. Also, medications for many common health issues pose a safety concern for the developing fetus.
On the other hand, there are certain infections like chickenpox, uterine infections, measles, listeria (food poisoning), malaria, hepatitis, zika, etc., that can harm the baby in the womb.
Some infections can be transmitted to babies through the placenta, creating serious consequences. Sometimes, babies contract some infection during the time of labour and delivery (like a yeast infection).
Further, the baby’s risk of contracting the mother’s infection depends on several factors like the mother’s overall health, the stage of pregnancy, the severity of the infection, and how fast the infection is detected and treated.
Pregnancy definitely takes a toll on your immune system. However, this variation in immunity level is significant to carry on the pregnancy and delivery. After all, it is the process of bringing a new life to the world.
Now you know that during pregnancy, the immunity is revised rather than suppressed. While some parts of the immune system are active, some other parts are suppressed. That is why pregnant women respond differently to infections during different stages of the pregnancy.
You can’t do anything to alter this natural process. You can minimise the chances of infections by following the above mentioned 11 simple ways to boost immunity during pregnancy.