Your immune system gets complicated when you are pregnant. Similar to an organ transplant patient your body is trying to figure out how to both grow a baby and not attack it as a foreign body. Yes, your relationship status with your immune system is complicated.
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’m always in awe of how our bodies have babies and are adjusted to both grow it and not kill it. Today we’re going to dive into what that means for YOU.
I’d love to join you during your pregnancy, giving you information for just where you are:
First off, let’s get some definitions for you:
What Does Immunocompromised Mean?
Miriam Webster defines it as: having the immune system impaired or weakened (as by drugs or illness).
So, basically it’s just a weakened immune system.
What Causes Someone to be Immunocompromised?
Most often it’s from an illness.
Sometimes it can be due to drugs like when you’re on cancer treatments or after an organ transplant (they suppress your immune system, so you don’t reject the organ).
So, are Pregnant Women Immunocompromised?
I believe the general consensus is that they are not. In fact, most often pregnant people are in their own category. Congrats.
This is because not only is your immune system a bit weakened, it is also enhanced.
How is a Pregnant Woman’s Immune System Enhanced?
During pregnancy there are specific times that the immune system is enhanced. I read a pretty fascinating article about how it’s on a timetable.
Also, your immune system is acting in coordination with other hormones, your metabolism, and more to keep the pregnancy healthy. It’s super interesting. But, remember your body is most likely going to work to that timetable rather than what your immune system would normally be.
Sort of like how that baby will take all your calcium if it needs it. 🙂
How is a Pregnant Woman’s Immune System Weakened?
Your body is preventing inflammation at times, so that you don’t stop the fetus from implanting, and at times growing. You have to remember that the baby will have DNA markers from the father. Normally, your immune system is set to attack anything that is not yours. And normally, that works well.
However, the immune system is not depressed ALL the time, only at specific times.
Because of the suppression, they tell pregnant women not to to eat Sushi, Deli Meats or soft cheeses (or Beef Jerky). Since your immune system might not be able to fight bacteria as easily, you’re more likely to get sick. Also, if you do get REALLY sick it can affect you and/or the baby.
What About the Rest of the Pregnant Woman?
While the immune system plays a role in all of this, you have to remember the pregnant woman has a LOT of changes going on.
Pregnant People Need Lots of Water
Turns out growing a human is very water-heavy. If/when you get sick you need lots of fluids for both you and the baby. When you lose fluids — like in the case of food poisoning it can be really problematic.
Pregnant People Have Less Lung Space
Even early in pregnancy, your body is compensating for the changes in your abdomen and moving things up to where your lungs normally are.
As you progress in your pregnancy, your ribs will expand a bit, but you still wont’ be getting breaths as full of air like you normally do. This can obviously be problematic in cases like the flu or Covid.
Pregnant People Have Blood Clotting Issues
Like your immune system, your blood clotting is different during pregnancy. When combined with severe illness this can be a problem (especially with Covid). It can also be a problem for a few weeks after baby is born.
So, as you can see — Pregnant women are really in their own “zone” for the immune system and their bodies.
And, the good news is that after pregnancy your body will likely go back to mostly “normal” — unlike transplant or lupus patients.
BUT, during pregnancy it is important that you stay on top of your health and any other issues that crop up — like high blood pressure, diabetes, or preeclampisa.
It is important that you strongly consider vaccines like the flu shot or covid vaccine. You are at higher risk. And in coordination, your baby is also at risk.
Please make sure to keep your prenatal appointments. Even though they can seem useless, they are really made to get the important information and make sure your pregnancy and health are OK.
Of course, not all information will be given at those appointments, so I recommend pregnant couples take a prenatal class. This one can be done in just 3 hours and can be done when your schedule allows it (most videos are just 10-20 minutes).
If you’re not sure you’re quite ready for that. Check out my free birth prep pack — it will give you a good start towards getting prepared for your delivery:
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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.