Pregnant with a fever? You’re naturally going to worry if your baby will be OK.

But before you panic, take a deep breath. Call your doctor and ask if you should take acetaminophen, such as Tylenol, to lower the fever.

The next important step is uncovering the cause of the fever. A temperature during pregnancy is often a symptom of an underlying condition that could potentially be harmful to your growing baby, says Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease physician based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Why Am I Running a Temperature?

Fevers are often caused by urinary tract infections and respiratory viruses, but innocuous infections could also be to blame.

Other common causes of a fever during pregnancy include:

  • influenza
  • pneumonia
  • tonsillitis
  • dehydration
  • hyperthyroidism
  • pyelonephritis (kidney infection)

What Symptoms Usually Accompany a Fever?

Expecting mothers should pay attention to and tell their doctors about symptoms accompanying a fever. These include:

  • shortness of breath
  • back pain
  • chills
  • abdominal pain
  • neck stiffness

Is It Food Poisoning?

Food poisoning could also be the culprit of a fever, says Dr. Kecia Gaither, a maternal fetal medicine specialist at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City.

If this is the case, you’ll likely also experience abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. Diarrhea and vomiting are especially problematic during a pregnancy because they can cause dehydration, contractions, and preterm labor.

Vital electrolytes lost through vomiting and diarrhea must be replenished. In some cases, dehydration can be so severe that blood pressure becomes unstable and hospitalization is required.

What if My Fever Goes Away on Its Own?

Even if moms-to-be think they’re fine after a fever subsides, it’s always best to play it safe and see your doctor anyway, says Dr. Daniel Roshan, a fetal medicine expert in New York City.

How Can I Avoid a Fever While Pregnant?
The best defense is to wash your hands often, to protect you from catching a cold or flu that could lead to a fever. Also stay away from sick people when possible, and get a flu shot.

Fevers during pregnancy are never normal, so an exam is always recommended. Luckily, if the fever was caused by a viral illness, hydration and Tylenol are usually enough for recovery.

But if the cause is bacterial, an antibiotic is often needed. Pregnant women should not take aspirin or ibuprofen. The most important thing is to see your doctor for proper treatment.

Do I Have a Fever?

For adults, a temperature taken orally that is higher than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit is considered a fever. The same goes for an ear or rectal temperature of 101 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.

How Will a Fever Affect My Baby?

If an expectant mother’s body temperature goes from 98.6 degrees to a fever, it could disrupt a babe-to-be’s fragile development. That’s why it’s essential to seek treatment right away.

Some studies have shown that a fever that causes an infection could lead to congenital defects, says Dr. Francisco Arredondo, an endocrinologist based in Austin, Texas.

If you are in your first trimester and have a fever higher than 102 degrees, be sure to seek treatment right away. This will help prevent short- and long-term complications for your developing baby.