The short answer is, yes, it’s both possible and not that uncommon to give birth with anything from a head-cold to the bubonic plague, and still come out of it with a healthy mother and baby – well, maybe not so much the plague.
Most of the direct complications to babies that can happen when their mothers are facing viral infections happen early on in pregnancy when the fetus is still developing, so while it’s pretty inconvenient timing to get sick just before your due date, it’s actually one of the safer times during pregnancy to be coming down with something.
Labor during illness
Giving birth while you’re sick can be significantly less comfortable than the other variations of labour, and, if you’re having a vaginal birth, being sick can sap some of the energy you need to push.
On the other hand, though, some women who give birth during illnesses report that, when labor kicks in, so does a rush of adrenaline, and they get through labor without feeling sick at all.
Others, though, end up feeling sick and sniffly straight through the miracle of birth, so there’s no guarantee that labor will drown out anything you’re already feeling.
Will I make the baby sick?
One of the biggest concerns for new parents about visitors to their new babies is the worry that well-meaning family or friends will bring germs with them that the newest member of the family isn’t ready to combat yet, so it only makes sense that new moms might worry that their own cases of the sniffles might have the same effect.
However, babies have an extra layer of protection from illnesses their mothers are facing, since, when they’re in the womb, babies share their mothers’ immune systems, and the antibodies their bodies build up to fight those very same viruses.
Breastfed babies continue to get this protection from their mothers’ immune systems even after birth, so as counterintuitive as it seems, usually the safest place for your little one is right beside you, even if you do have a cold that won’t quit.
For more serious or infectious illnesses, like the flu, your healthcare provider may recommend keeping your newborn away from you until the danger has passed.
- “The Flu Vaccine and Pregnancy.” ACOG. FAQ189 from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Oct 2015. Web. Accessed 6/28/17. Available at https://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/The-Flu-Vaccine-and-Pregnancy.
- Michelle Silasi, et al. “Viral infections during pregnancy.” Am J Reprod Immunol. 73(3): 199–213. Web. Mar 2015. Accessed 6/28/17. Available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4610031/.
- “Prenatal Health — Cold and Flu.” WomensHealthConsultantsMN. Women’s Health Consultants, PA, 2013. Web. Accessed 6/28/17. Available at http://www.womenshealthconsultantsmn.com/health-prenatal-pregnancy-cold-flu.html.
- “Pregnancy Complications.” WomensHealth. Office on Women’s Health, US Department of Health and Human Services, Feb 2017. Web. Accessed 6/28/17. Available at https://www.womenshealth.gov/pregnancy/youre-pregnant-now-what/pregnancy-complications.