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Flu Symptoms and Signs of Pregnancy

by 
author image Kay Peck
Based in Northern California, Kay is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She holds a Bachelor of Science in nutrition from Minnesota State University and an MPH in community health education from San Jose State University. She works in diabetes care, and is a medical reviewer for Livestrong.
Flu Symptoms and Signs of Pregnancy
Are you pregnant, or do you have the flu? There is some overlap in symptoms. Photo Credit: Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/Blend Images/GettyImages

Whether you’ve been trying to conceive for a while or you’re wondering if you just caught the latest bug going around the office, deciphering the signs your body is sending you can be tricky.

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Many women report flu-like symptoms like headaches, muscle aches, nausea and vomiting as early pregnancy signs, though some typical flu symptoms like cough and fever are not related to pregnancy and may indicate illness instead. Here’s how to tell the difference.

Early Signs of Pregnancy

Early signs of pregnancy will differ from woman to woman and even from pregnancy to pregnancy. While the most common sign of pregnancy is a missed menstrual period, women may also experience:

  • Swollen, tender, enlarged or tingling breasts
  • Darkening of the areolas 
  • Fatigue or lightheadedness
  • Hunger, food cravings or aversions
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Frequent urination
  • Bloating, heartburn or constipation
  • Mood swings
  • Slight bleeding or spotting, which may be implantation bleeding

Read more: 9 Foods to Eat Now If You Want to Get Pregnant

Timeline for Pregnancy Symptoms

Often, the first and most obvious sign of pregnancy is a missed period, though some women report breast changes, moodiness or fatigue before this first period is missed. If you have signs that could be caused by either the flu or pregnancy and suspect you are pregnant, using a home pregnancy test is a fairly reliable first step.

As the pregnancy progresses, you may have other symptoms that could be related to pregnancy or illness. For some women, morning sickness and heartburn gets worse and other symptoms may develop, including:

  • Nasal congestion or headaches
  • Back, hip or pelvic pain or leg cramps
  • A general feeling of malaise or not feeling well
  • Puffiness in the hands, face or ankles
  • Nosebleed or bleeding gums

Pregnant women may experience even more discomfort in the second and third trimesters as their body adjusts to a growing baby. It’s important to let your doctor know about all of the symptoms you are having, so any concerning ones can be assessed.

Fever and chills are flu symptoms that are not generally associated with pregnancy.
Fever and chills are flu symptoms that are not generally associated with pregnancy. Photo Credit: PeopleImages/E+/GettyImages

Flu Symptoms

Some of the early pregnancy symptoms can mimic influenza, a contagious respiratory illness also known as the flu. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), signs and symptoms of the flu include:

  • Fever
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Chills
  • Tiredness or fatigue
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Loss of appetite
  • Headache
  • Vomiting and diarrhea (although this is a less common flu symptom in adults)

Flu symptoms, like signs of pregnancy, can be different from person to person and can vary in severity. While some symptoms — such as fatigue or nausea — may be related to either condition, pregnancy is not known to bring on fever, chills or cough.

Read more: 12 Not-So-Common Tips to Fend Off Cold and Flu

Fever, Pregnancy and the Flu

During the menstrual cycle, the basal body temperature — the temperature of the body at rest — will increase. These subtle temperature changes can be tracked to help predict when ovulation is occurring, which can help provide the best timing for conception.

It’s important to note, though, that neither ovulation nor conception will typically raise body temperature to fever levels. If you might be pregnant and your symptoms include a temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, contact your doctor because it’s more likely the fever is being caused by an infection or illness than pregnancy.

How to Tell If You’re Pregnant or Sick

Many women anecdotally report flu-like symptoms as signs of early pregnancy, including

  • Headache
  • Backache
  • Nasal congestion
  • Fatigue

Symptoms of a sore throat, fever and cough (with or without white, green or yellow mucus) are more likely due to a cold or flu than pregnancy. But if you’re pregnant, these symptoms may be explained by a flu or cold that has coincided with your pregnancy.

A home pregnancy test can help you figure out whether you’re pregnant.
A home pregnancy test can help you figure out whether you’re pregnant. Photo Credit: PeopleImages/E+/GettyImages

Home Pregnancy Test

At-home pregnancy tests look for the presence of human chorionic gonadotropin, or hCG, in a woman’s urine. This hormone is produced by the placenta and can usually be detected in a laboratory blood test several days before a missed period. Levels of hCG can vary woman to woman, especially in early pregnancy.

Home pregnancy tests vary in their sensitivity to detect hCG because they’re measuring this substance in the urine. Some home tests might detect the hCG on the first day of a missed period, but these home tests are most accurate when the urine is checked one to two weeks after the menstrual cycle is missed.

When to See a Doctor

If you menstruate on a regular schedule and your period is a week late, it’s a good idea to check to see if you’re pregnant. Since medical check-ups and screening tests help keep you and your baby healthy throughout the pregnancy, be sure to set up a prenatal visit if your home test is positive for pregnancy.

Throughout your pregnancy, see your doctor if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Dizziness 
  • Blurred vision or worsening eyesight
  • Pain, burning or discomfort with urination
  • Severe or persistent headaches
  • Fever or chills
  • Sudden or severe swelling in the hands, face or fingers
  • Bleeding or leaking fluid from the vagina
  • Cramping, pain or discomfort in the lower abdomen
  • Vomiting or nausea and not able to eat or drink well
  • Baby is moving less than usual after week 28
  • Depressed, sad or have thoughts of harming yourself or your baby

What to Do If You’re Pregnant and Have the Flu

If you’re pregnant and you have symptoms of the flu, call your doctor right away. The CDC recommends that anyone at high risk for flu complications, including pregnant women, receive prompt treatment — which may include antiviral medications.

So contact your doctor to report any flu symptoms and seek urgent medical care if you have difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, chest or abdominal pain or pressure, sudden dizziness, confusion or a high fever.

What Do YOU Think?

Have you ever been pregnant or had the flu? Or possibly both? How did you tell the difference? Was there a period of time when you were unsure? Share your thoughts, stories and questions in the comments below!

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