Are you a pregnant parent who’s stuck dealing with a cold? Having to care for yourself while also growing and nurturing another human being can be tough on its own, so when illness strikes it can seem especially difficult to manage. Don’t stress! There are many home remedies that you can use to naturally ease your discomfort due to an annoying cold all within the safety of home. With these clever ideas, you won’t have to worry about any dangerous interactions between medications and your baby in utero; although always make sure to check in with your doctor before attempting anything unfamiliar. Read on for more details!
But first, how do I know all of this? Hi — I’m Hilary — The Pregnancy Nurse 👩⚕️. I have been a nurse since 1997 and I have 20 years of OB nursing experience, I am also the curly head behind Pulling Curls and The Online Prenatal Class for Couples. 🩺 I have seen tons of patients with colds and have talked about what can help them — and I know I can do that for you too!
Oh, and join my free pregnancy newsletter that can be tailor-made to just where you are in your pregnancy:
First, the bad news. I wish I had something that would get that cold or flu to go away… but the bad news is most of this is just going to speed up recovery a bit, or just clear up some of your common cold symptoms (like cough, runny nose, etc). There’s no real “cures” for colds. The reality is that cold and flu medicine is iffy at best no matter if you’re pregnant or not — so these simple home remedies can be helpful for all members of your family.
I will also share some studies on what these can really do for you!
Of course, before you do any of these, call your provider to see what they recommend based on your unique circumstances (like your health history and how far along you are in your pregnancy). If you’re feeling more sick than just a light cold, some providers may want to see you to make sure things are still going OK.
Flu’s can be really hard on pregnant women, so they’ll want to make sure you’re healing up OK. Also, consider getting a flu shot before flu season so you can side step it if possible!
A danger sign can be if you start to feel better and then wake up feeling worse — call your provider. Also, if you have a fever over 100 degrees Fahrenheit you should call you provider. You just want to be really mindful that you may not heal when you’re not pregnant…. You may need a little extra help healing up.
While antibiotics won’t help the common cold virus, sometimes you can get a secondary infection, or have some difficulty breathing that may require prescription-strength help. Or, if you actually have the flu, they may recommend flu medication from the pharmacy.
Ok, let’s talk about what you can try at home:
Cold During Pregnancy Home Remedies:
Drink plenty of fluids
Labor nurses harp so much on this one. We’re annoying like that — but man oh man can fluids make or break your whole body during pregnancy, and ESPECIALLY when you’re sick.
It’s probably because labor nurses have seen how much BETTER you feel after we give you some IV fluids. Which, is something you could do yourself just by drinking.
Pregnancy alone takes a LOT of fluids from you. The baby needs a lot of blood flow to grow and develop, and they also live in water to do that.
When you add a cold into the mix, it just increases those needs even more to help thin all that mucus and help you flush it all out of your system!
I recommend to aim for 8-16oz of water/HOUR while you’re not asleep. That means filling that cup all day and drinking it. I also recommend tapering your fluid intake after dinner so that you can get some sleep at night (since we know your bladder is going be tired after all that water all day).
What do the studies say? They haven’t really proven this one helps — but many of us have found that we feel SO much better when we’re well-hydrated with a cold/flu.
That means you may need to take the day off of work, or maybe turn on the TV for your little one so that you can get some rest for your body. Try to sleep as much as you can during that down day.
Of course, if you’re home laying on the couch (and not asleep) it’s a great time to start your prenatal class!
What do they studies say? While I can’t find a study on rest and cold (although, you’re often more tired so it would be hard to do a study that stops you from sleeping). There is one that shows the more you sleep, the less like you are to get a cold.
Gargle with warm salt water
I never believed how much this could help until I tried it. Somehow the salt water really decreases the inflammation in your throat (if that is an issue).
Don’t add just a little bit of salt to your gargle, you want it to taste like the ocean…. so pretty salty (like a teaspoon of salt) with a glass of warm water to make sure it dissolves.
Be sure not to swallow it, you want to spit it out (as that extra salty water won’t be great for you).
I recommend trying this 2-3 times/day (although, sometimes gargling during pregnancy makes me gag — so be aware).
I don’t see any studies to support this one, but I know that it does help my throat feel better, so it’s definitely worth a try!
Inhale steam from a hot shower or pot of boiling water
A LONG shower on your day off is a perfect way to try to clear your congestion.
Sometimes I like to add a few drops of an essential oil, or a dab of a Menthol rub in the corner of my shower (don’t put it in the middle or it will just go down the drain). They also sell steam tablets that slowly release those in the hot shower. Get your shower REALLY steamy, and then just stand in there and deep breathe. If you feel like you need to cough, don’t stop yourself. It’s all about getting that super-humidified air deep into your lungs!
This is a great cure for a stuffy nose.
What do the studies show: This one showed that inhaling warm humidified air can improve your course with the cold and give you relief from your symptoms.
Take over-the-counter medications as directed by your doctor
While this isn’t exactly a home remedy, things like Tylenol or Ibuprofen can be super helpful in getting rest and not feeling as achy and tired.
Call your doctor and see what they recommend based on your unique needs and circumstances. Many of them are safe to take during pregnancy (but many aren’t so don’t assume they are).
Suck on throat lozenges or hard candy to soothe a sore throat
Whenever I suck on a Luden’s cherry drop I’m taken back to my bed when I was about 8 and would suck them all day when I stayed home from school. For me, there’s always something comforting from that taste. Don’t forget how important comfort can be!
BUT, if your throat is really sore — these can be SO helpful. You can also try a throat spray like Chloraseptic.
BUT, if your throat is really sore I’d also recommend talking with your provider as it could be strep throat, and that is something you shouldn’t mess around with — it needs antibiotics, and it’s easy to find out if it’s strep with a simple test.
Also, if you just have a dry cough you may find that lozenges help that as well.
I don’t see any study on lozenges, but mostly they’re just made to help you feel better – so, if you’re not feeling better with them, no need to keep going
I’d recommend checking with your doctor being trying Zinc lozenges. I’ve seen information both ways on if those are OK during pregnancy.
I have a whole post on sore throats in pregnancy that might interest you on my sister site.
Since you can’t stand in the shower all day, using a humidifier in your room can be helpful. I prefer to shut my door to try and keep all that moist air in my room (when possible).
I like to add an essential oil like breathe to my humidification (or with just an essential oil diffuser) if I’m feeling congested.
That moist air gets into your respiratory tract and helps thin out all that mucus and get it out!
Nasal Saline Rinse
These scare a lot of people, but I am here to testify how HELPFUL they can be. This is the one I use (there are more complicated, but that one works!).
You’re basically running water through your sinus area and hopefully helping all that gross congestion flow out with it. The instructions on how to do it are super explicit, and making sure the water is the right temperature is essential to make it less weird-feeling.
Not only can you breathe a bit better afterwards, but I’ve found it to help with my sore throat, or even coughs if it’s post nasal drip causing it.
Plus, I feel like it moistens all those mucus membranes and helps all my symptoms for a while.
I try to only do this a couple of times a day (sometimes I feel like it starts to irritate those mucus membranes if I do it too much or for too long)
Garlic & Ginger
I often will try a soup or food that has lots of spices plus garlic and ginger in it. This helps to clear my sinuses a bit and they say that both of those things have antiviral properties, so it might help you in many ways.
I don’t see anything about garlic curing your cold, but I did find one that those who eat more garlic get less colds!
Chicken soup actually has a lot of things that can help you feel better (bonus if it’s made by someone else). All the fluids help hydrate you, sometimes you add garlic to it or ginger to get those benefits as well. The protein in the chicken will help with needed energy. It’s just got a lot of good stuff in it that can help — plus, sit there and inhale the steam for a bit to help in that way too.
It may just make you feel happier too, which is a big win either way.
What do the studies say? This one says it DOES have healing properties!
BTW, love all the studies I included here? Beyond my own experience, I love to give you the information on how to property evaluate studies and make your best choices. I can do that that for you with labor in The Online Prenatal Class for Couples!
Ok, those are my 10 things.
You’ll notice that I didn’t dive into vitamins or supplements much. While Vitamin C is generally considered safe, it seems like the verdict on Zinc or Elderberry is out. Be Sure to talk with your proivder even before you try any of those “natural remedies” — just because it’s not a prescription doesn’t mean that it is safe in pregnancy.
One other bonus tip is to try to stay away from places you’re likely to catch a cold (or to mask-up if you’re OK with that). Busy, crowded places like concerts, airplanes, etc make your chance of getting sick higher. But, they can’t always be avoided, sadly.
Being pregnant and having a cold can be miserable, but there are some things you can do to feeling better. These home remedies for a cold while pregnant should help provide some relief. If your symptoms persist or worsen, be sure to contact your doctor. Have you tried any of these cold remedies — tell us in the comments!
And, come join me in The Online Prenatal Class for Couples where we will prepare you for BIRTH even BETTER than we have for a cold. In just a few hours you can be (and feel) prepared!
And, if you’re not quite sure you’re ready for that whole thing, check out my free prenatal class. It’s your first step toward getting in the driver’s seat of your birth.
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A nurse since 1997, she has worked in various fields including pediatrics, geriatrics & hospice. She has 20 years of labor and delivery experience in the San Jose, CA and Phoenix, AZ areas.
As an evidence-based prenatal educator Hilary has delivered thousands of babies and has educated hundreds of thousands of parents from a diverse patient population to help them have a confident birth.