How To Boost Immune System When Pregnant

How To Boost Immune System When Pregnant

I know, right now, you will have many questions about your pregnancy immune system in the face of the Coronavirus pandemic. So, I want to chat about how to boost your immune system when pregnant.

We have enough to worry about when pregnant. Now, with the global pandemic it only adds another worry. But I want you to know that all the medical reports to date suggest your baby will be fine.

Your Mental Health Matters!

Now is the time I want you to do all you can to boost your immune system and look after your mental health during pregnancy. As we know, excessive stress can have a negative impact on the immune system so let's start right now, and implement some positive steps to reducing your stress.

As always, please consult your doctor about any medical questions you may have and if you are unwell please seek medical advice immediately.

How To Boost Immune System When Pregnant

If you're like most people, you've been paying attention to what's happening with coronavirus. It’s important you do everything you can to improve your immune system in times like these.

That raises the question: can you do anything to boost your pregnancy immune system?

So, let's start with discussing what the immune system, how it works, and then how to strengthen it.

Can I Really Boost My Immune System?

Research conducted by scientists at the Karolinska Institute shows that our genetics only determine around 25% of our immune system health, with the other 75% being determined by lifestyle choices and our environment.

So it is vital that you know you can implement healthy lifestyle choices to boost your immune system.

Importance of Boosting Immunity during Pregnancy

When pregnant, you need to take extreme care of yourself, because you're not just looking after yourself, but your baby as well. Your immunity is a priority, as is your child's.

That's why, at PregActive, our focus is on improving your health and wellbeing as it has a direct impact on the health and well-being of your baby.

Your immune system is like a shield as it protects you from illness, germs, toxins and infections, by providing a resistance. Your body's own defence system, the immune system is one of the most important systems in your body, without which the functioning of your organs and overall health can be compromised.

How the Immune System Works

The immune system is a complex network of cells, tissues, and organs that works to identify, kill, and purge infectious diseases from the body. The health of your immune system is mostly determined by lifestyle choices and your environment, not your genetics.

When a virus sneaks into the body, specialised white blood cells known as B lymphocytes, quickly identify the intruders. They mount an initial defence by blasting the pathogens with small proteins called antibodies.

As a result, the invading pathogens are more easily identified by your body. They make it more difficult for the pathogen to enter healthy cells.

Antibodies alert more effective immune cells to the presence of these invaders.

What happens if you have a weakened pregnancy immune system?

1. If your immune system is weak, you're making it easier for infections, toxins, and germs to enter and thrive.

2. Tiredness and fatigue is common during pregnancy. But if your immunity is low, then you'll see a whole new level of tiredness and fatigue.

3. Morning sickness is common during pregnancy too, you'll see more of this than usual, if you have a weak immune system.

4. A strong immune system means a healthy fetus.

How to Avoid Getting Sick While Pregnant

While you will not be able to avoid all sources of illness while you're pregnant, you can take steps to reduce the risk of serious problems for you or your baby:

1. Personal hygiene.

You need to:

1. Be washing your hands.

2. Not sharing glasses or utensils.

3. Staying away from people who are sick.

2. Stay up-to-date on vaccinations.

When pregnant, your health care professional will ensure you are up to date with your required vaccinations including the flu vaccine during flu season. They will advise you on other vaccinations you may require.

3. Eat a balanced diet.

Prevention is the key! It is important to get your daily recommended intake of Vitamin C and Vitamin B6 (green peas, green vegetables) as these can boost your immunity by increasing the body's natural production of interferon. Supplements are beneficial, but ideally you should be eating nutritious foods.

4. Seek medical advice

If you do get sick during pregnancy, schedule an appointment with your doctor to ensure the health of you and your baby.

5 Ways to Boost Your Immune System when pregnant

1. The lifestyle choices you make when pregnant will have a significant impact on the health of your immune system. You should avoid smoking, limit alcohol and try to avoid toxins that may be in your surroundings.

2. Eating healthy and nutritious foods to ensure you are getting your required prenatal nutrients and vitamins.

3. Exercise when pregnant is extremely important now more than ever to boost your immune system.

4. Get plenty of sleep.

Yes, I know that it is very difficult at times to get a good night sleep when pregnant. But I want you to implement the required strategies to ensuring you are getting rest when needed.

Related: Best Pregnancy Pillows

5. Manage your stress levels. We all experience stress in our life. But it is the uncontrollable, excessively high levels of stress that can weaken our immune system. My relaxation audio and video will help you to de-stress.

Exercise Can Boost Your Immune System when Pregnant

I know after many years of teaching prenatal exercise classes that exercise reduces your risk of a long list of non-contagious diseases like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. And first trimester exercise also significantly reduces the risk of contagious diseases caused by viruses.

Many studies have shown that intense, prolonged exercise is associated with a lower risk of infection and better immune function.

Consistent exercise seems to prevent the natural decline in immune health that occurs as we age, making it particularly important for the elderly.

Key Takeaway

Most evidence shows that regular prenatal workouts and exercise, even intense or prolonged exercise, is good for your immune system.

Sleep is Essential for Your Pregnancy Immune System

Unsurprisingly, sleep deprivation can also decrease immune health.

Sleep deprivation significantly decreases immune function and increases the risk of infection. One of the best ways to ensure your immune system is operating at peak capacity is to get as much sleep as your body needs every night. 7 to 9 hours ideal.

Sleep deprivation causes a long list of problems, including:

1. Muscle loss and fat gain

2. Decreased mental function

3. Decreased productivity

Tips for a Good Night Sleep:

1. Go to bed at the same time every night.

2. Sleep in a cool, quiet, dark room.

3. Don't set an alarm.

4. Avoid all stimulants and stressful stimuli.

Limit Your Alcohol Intake

We know that heavy drinking is linked with worse immune function, a higher risk of infectious diseases such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, and acute respiratory distress syndrome.

For example, a study conducted by scientists at Aarhus University Hospital found that people who drank heavily multiple times per week (>7 drinks per week) had a higher risk of being hospitalized with pneumonia than those who drank 0 to 6 times per week.

Binge Drinking

Binge drinking and alcoholism can significantly impair immune function and increase the risk of many infectious diseases (particularly respiratory diseases like COVID-19), but moderate drinking likely has no effect on immune function.

Manage Your Stress Levels

Chronically high stress levels in pregnancy compromise immune function and increase your risk of infection. Use these strategies outlined below to manage your stress levels and keep your immune system strong.

Scientists have long suspected that stress can suppress the immune system.

Study Conducted

In one study conducted by scientists at Carnegie Mellon University, the researchers exposed 276 healthy adults to one of two kinds of rhinoviruses, and then quarantined and monitored them for five days.

The researchers asked the participants about their stress levels and measured their age, body mass index (BMI), race, sex, education status, and a variety of other factors.

Finally, they also tested the participants level of glucocorticoid receptor resistance (GCR), a marker of compromised immune function.

Generally, the immune systems of people with GCR have trouble mounting an appropriate response to infections, often overreacting and making the symptoms of the illness worse. (This is one of the ways COVID-19 kills-by causing the immune system to overreact in a 'cytokine storm' that causes organ failure and death).

Tips to Reduce Stress during Pregnancy

1. Keep problems in perspective.

In other words, are you getting stressed out about insignificant things or things out of your control?

a. Is it really a big deal your supermarket currently is out of stock of your favorite yogurt?

b. If stuck in traffic, is it worth getting stressed about when you can’t do anything about it?

c. Is it worth getting stressed about not having live sports available on TV or your favourite show?

The answer is most likely not.
2. Prioritize important things.

AND put away the little things. It seems we have a lot of tasks to get done every day. But you need to prioritise the important tasks. Get the important stuff done first, ignore everything else, and then come back to it once you've knocked the big items off your list.

3. Hope for the best, plan for the worst.

Are you convincing yourself a situation is far worse than it really is, often before it's even happened?

Yes, Coronavirus is deadly and it is spreading around the globe. Yes, we will have economic problems.

But the fact is there will always be 'scary' things happening in the world that feel out of your control. Each year we deal with the flu.

But this virus is new?

And most information we have right now shows that those that are greatest risk are the elderly or those with underlying health issues.

I want you to be prepared and proactive, but if you are healthy you should experience only mild symptoms. Stressing out about the situation may actually increase your risk of getting the disease. So let's focus on what you can control and that is making the right lifestyle choices to boost your immune system.

4. Encourage Laughter

Make sure you have a positive environment around you. If you already have young children, now is the time to take a moment and enjoy their silliness and fun games.

Laughing, as a matter of fact can help boost your immunity too, as surprising as it sounds. Wallowing in a negative environment is the last thing you need during your pregnancy.

5. Keep yourself hydrated.

Water is really important, considering how much we depend on it. Make sure you have an intake of 8 to 12 glasses of water a day without fail.

Related: How Much Water Should a Pregnant Woman Drink

Immune Boosting Supplements when Pregnant

*Before taking any supplements, please consult your doctor.

If you aren't exercising or sleeping enough, or are drinking too much, or are chronically stressed then no amount of supplements will improve your immune function enough to stop an infection.

There are a few supplements you can take that are scientifically proven to support healthy immune function. These can include everything from garlic, vitamin C, zinc to vitamin D.

1. Probiotics when Pregnant

You will find various brands of probiotics in your local store. Probiotics help in increasing your immunity.

Probiotics are found naturally in foods like kefir, yoghurt, and sauerkraut, but you can take supplements that are found over the counter in medical stores or the supermarket as well.

2. Vitamin C

Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps maintain healthy tissues, teeth, and gums, promote wound healing, and support immune function.

It aids the immune system by assisting with the development and function of several types of cells that are vital to its operations.

This is why research shows that an inadequate intake of vitamin C increases infection rates of various pathogens and supplementing with it when sick with the common cold reduces the duration of sickness.

3. Garlic

Garlic contains is an antioxidant known as S-allylcysteine, which supplies the body with sulfur. This aids the immune system by improving the body's ability to fight off pathogens.

That's why research shows that supplementation with aged garlic extract reduces the severity of colds and flus and improves vitality and well-being when sick.

4. Zinc during Pregnancy

Zinc is a mineral used to create enzymes, proteins, and cells, release vitamin A from the liver, and regulate immune function.

It aids the immune system by enhancing the development and function of several types of cells that are vital to its operations.

This is why research shows that a zinc deficiency increases infection rates of various pathogens and supplementing with it when sick reduces the duration and severity of sickness.

5. Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that's found in food and naturally produced in your body in response to sun exposure.

Nearly every cell in the body has vitamin D receptors, and it plays a vital role in many physiological processes including proper heart function, insulin sensitivity, neurological function, bone growth, and immune function.

While there's still much we don't know about how vitamin D affects immune health, several studies show that supplementing with it may improve immune function.

Immune system boosters

Feeding your body certain foods may help keep your immune system strong. Here are some powerful immune system boosters.

1. Citrus fruits

Vitamin C is thought to increase the production of white blood cells. These are key to fighting infections.

Popular citrus fruits include:

1. grapefruit

2. oranges

3. tangerines

4. lemons

5. limes

6. clementines

2. Red bell peppers

Did you know that ounce for ounce, red bell peppers contain twice as much vitamin C as citrus. They're also a rich source of beta carotene.

3. Broccoli

Broccoli is supercharged with vitamins and minerals. Packed with vitamins A, C, and E, as well as many other antioxidants and fiber, broccoli is one of the healthiest vegetables you can put on your table.

4. Ginger

Ginger is another ingredient many turn to after getting sick. It may help decrease inflammation, which can help reduce a sore throat and other inflammatory illnesses. Ginger may also help decrease nausea.

5. Spinach

Spinach is packed with numerous antioxidants and beta carotene, which may increase the infection-fighting ability of our immune systems.

6. Yogurt

Yogurt can also be a great source of vitamin D, so try to select brands fortified with vitamin D. Vitamin D helps regulate the immune system and is thought to boost our body's natural defenses against diseases.

7. Almonds

Vitamin E is key to a healthy immune system. It’s a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning it requires the presence of fat to be absorbed properly. Nuts, such as almonds, are packed with the vitamin and also have healthy fats.

8. Turmeric

This bright yellow, bitter spice has also been used for years as an anti-inflammatory in treating both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Also, research shows that high concentrations of curcumin, which gives turmeric its distinctive color, can help decrease exercise-induced muscle damage.

9. Green tea when Pregnant

Both green and black teas are packed with flavonoids, a type of antioxidant. Where green tea really excels is in its levels of epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG, another powerful antioxidant. EGCG has been shown to enhance immune function. The fermentation process black tea goes through destroys a lot of the EGCG. Green tea, on the other hand, is steamed and not fermented, so the EGCG is preserved.

10. Kiwi

Kiwis are naturally full of a ton of essential nutrients, including folate, potassium, vitamin K, and vitamin C. Vitamin C boosts white blood cells to fight infection, while kiwi's other nutrients keep the rest of your body functioning properly.

11. Poultry

Poultry, such as chicken and turkey, is high in vitamin B-6. Vitamin B-6 is an important player in many of the chemical reactions that happen in the body. 

Related: Pregnancy and Juicing

But What if You Do Get Sick?

1. Colds and coughs when Pregnant

When you first meet with your doctor, ask them what cold medications you can and cannot take. Some of the ingredients in these medications that are not safe in pregnancy, especially during the first three months.

2. Flu

If you get the flu during pregnancy, call your doctor to get advice or make an appointment. Drink plenty of liquids and get plenty of rest. Don't take any flu or cold medications without talking to your doctor first. Flu complications can include dehydration and pneumonia, and complications are more common in pregnant women.

3. Yeast Infection

If you have an abnormal discharge, talk to your doctor since this may be yeast (candidiasis), which is common in pregnancy. Eating natural yogurt may help restore the bacterial balance in your vagina.

4. Food poisoning and stomach upsets

Food poisoning can cause problems for you and your baby, so it's vital to practice good kitchen hygiene. If you do develop food poisoning, drink plenty of water, and if it continues for more than 24 hours, see your doctor.

5. Urinary infections

Pregnant women get urinary infections because the hormone progesterone relaxes all of the smooth muscle. This allows the bacteria that normally live in your vagina to travel up the urethra where they may cause an infection. These are usually easily treated with antibiotics, most of which are safe in pregnancy.

Key Takeaway

The immune system is an incredibly complex and effective network of cells, tissues, and organs that protects your body from viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens.

Research shows only a small fraction of our immune function is dictated by our genetics, and that about 75% of our immune health is under our control.

To boost your immune system you should exercise, sleep at least 7 to 9 hours per night, manage your stress levels, limit your alcohol intake and take immune-support supplements proven to work.

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