There’s nothing worse than a cold or flu striking you down when you’re fighting fit, but when you’re pregnant and your body is working hard, focusing on growing and developing your baby, it can hit you really hard.
During pregnancy, your body suppresses your immune system and makes you more susceptible to infection – especially common illnesses like cold and flu. This is why it’s more important than ever to be looking after yourself and avoid germs wherever possible.
Why does the immune system change when you fall pregnant?
In order for the human body to get pregnant in the first place, the immune system needs to alter itself – otherwise, the body’s natural instinct to fight foreign cells (a.k.a your baby) like it would usually, would kick in and the pregnancy would not be possible.
This is why when you catch a cold, flu, food poisoning, urinary tract infection (or worse) when you’re pregnant, it can be that much harder to shake it than it usually would – and not to mention you cannot take certain medications that you would usually take either.
So how can I boost my immune system when I’m pregnant?
1. Avoid getting sick in the first place.
Well duh! But seriously, while you can’t possibly avoid all germs, being extra vigilant when you’re pregnant is important. Think about keeping away from sick friends, family and colleagues, always practising good hygiene when out and about, not sharing glasses/bottles/utensils, keeping up to date with vaccinations (doctors usually recommend pregnant women get the flu vaccine during flu season, ask your doctor if they would recommend this for you) and making sure you’re not eating any foods that have a high risk of food poisoning.
2. Eat a healthy diet
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again – there’s never a more important time to get eating a healthy balanced diet. Eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, lean meats and proteins and plenty of iron will ensure you are getting all the right nutrients to keep you and your baby healthy and safe from infection.
3. Take it further with immune-boosting foods
Certain foods are renowned for their immune-boosting qualities, so add things like green veggies including broccoli and spinach, red capsicum, citrus fruits, garlic, lean red meats and proteins such as chicken, pork and eggs, nuts and seeds.
4. Avoid too much junk food
Sure pregnancy is a time to indulge in some cravings here and there, but try and keep the junk food to a minimum and stick with the healthy foods as much a possible. Foods that are high in refined sugar, salt and saturated fats can lead to inflammation, which affects your immune system.
5. Take a supplement
As well as your pregnancy vitamins you might want to consider taking supplements if you’re not getting enough through your diet – things like iron, calcium and vitamin d are all common deficiencies during pregnancy. Always speak with your doctor or midwife before taking any supplements, as they will guide you on what and how much to take.
6. Drink plenty of water
Getting enough water is essential for your immune system during pregnancy as it helps to flush out toxins and detoxify.
7. Get active
Exercise also helps the body flush toxins and get the blood flowing which is great for immunity. It’s also good for maintaining a healthy weight, keeping the body fit and will help both during the birth and after the baby is born – so it’s a no brainer really.
8. Don’t overdo it
Whether that’s with exercise or just day to day, don’t take on too much and know your limits. You might be feeling good and think you can take on as much as you usually would, but your body is working in overdrive whether you feel it or not and you need to make allowances. Ask for help and learn to say no.
9. Sleep and relaxation
Stress plays a big part in immunity and fighting off infection and so find ways to reduce and manage your stress levels wherever possible. Getting enough sleep every night, spending time resting and relaxing, practising yoga or meditation – or whatever it is for you that helps you unwind and distress is important.