From sore throats & sneezing to the flu, learn how to support yourself when you feel unwell during pregnancy

Your body will see many changes throughout your pregnancy, and a temporary adjustment to your immune system is one of them. This is all to protect you and your baby – different parts of your immune system are enhanced while others are suppressed, helping to shield baby from the risk of infection without compromising your own health. These changes also help protect your baby from your body natural defences.

As your immune system is now working hard to support the two of you, the chances of catching a common cold are higher during pregnancy.

The common cold is a viral infection that causes a range of symptoms, including:

• A sore throat

• Headaches

• A blocked or runny nose

• A high temperature

• Sneezing

• Loss of taste or smell

Colds usually come on gradually, and you'll start feeling better in a week or two.

Getting a cold while you're pregnant

Generally speaking, getting a cold while you're pregnant is unlikely to be serious, and you won't need to see your GP or midwife. Get as much rest as you can, drink plenty of fluids and aim to eat a healthy and balanced diet.

Treating a cold while you're pregnant

To help relieve your headache and throat pain, and to help reduce a high temperature, you can consider taking paracetamol. Paracetamol is generally considered safe for use at all stages of pregnancy.

As with any medicine, you should take the lowest dose needed, for the shortest amount of time required. If you have any questions, your pharmacist can offer advice.

Cold & flu medicines

These often contain paracetamol alongside other ingredients, which may not be suitable in pregnancy. Some contain ibuprofen, which is not recommended for use during pregnancy. Speak to your pharmacist to understand which medicines are suitable for you to take.

When to seek medical advice

See your GP, midwife or call 111 for advice if:

• Your symptoms don’t improve after three weeks

• Your symptoms get suddenly worse

• Your temperature’s very high (38°C or above) or you feel hot and shivery

• You’re finding it hard to breathe

• Your chest hurts

Symptoms of flu

Influenza, or flu, is different from a cold and can be much more serious. It comes on quickly (over a few hours) and the symptoms include:

• A high temperature

• Headache and muscle aches

• Severe exhaustion

• A dry cough

• Difficulty sleeping

• Stomach pain, sickness or diarrhoea

Getting flu while you're pregnant

As your body's immune system is working harder to support both you and your baby during pregnancy, this means you become more vulnerable to developing complications. Catching flu while you're pregnant can also seriously affect your baby.

For this reason, NHS advice is that all pregnant women should receive the flu jab. The flu jab doesn't offer 100 percent protection from the flu as it's designed to protect you and your baby against certain strains, but it greatly reduces your risk of catching it. If you catch a strain of flu that the vaccination doesn't protect you against, it should still shorten the length and severity of your illness.

Studies have shown that the flu jab is safe at all stages of pregnancy, from the first few weeks up to your expected due date. Speak to your GP about getting the free flu jab, as they should be able to provide it. You can also check if your local pharmacist offers the free flu vaccination, or if your midwife can provide it.

Treating flu while you're pregnant

If you're pregnant and you think you have flu, see your GP immediately. Your GP may be able to prescribe medicines to help reduce the risk of flu complications, but they should be taken soon

Next steps after symptoms appear

• If you catch a cold while you're pregnant, you can consider simple paracetamol to help relieve your symptoms

• Flu in pregnancy can cause serious complications for you and your baby. For this reason, NHS advice is that all pregnant women should have the flu jab

• If you're pregnant and think you have flu, you should see your GP immediately