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Can Having a Bad Cough Harm a Baby Inside the Womb?

author image Brenna Davis
Brenna Davis is a professional writer who covers parenting, pets, health and legal topics. Her articles have appeared in a variety of newspapers and magazines as well as on websites. She is a court-appointed special advocate and is certified in crisis counseling and child and infant nutrition. She holds degrees in developmental psychology and philosophy from Georgia State University.
Can Having a Bad Cough Harm a Baby Inside the Womb?
Fetuses are rarely harmed by coughs.

Although many pregnant women are extremely afraid that their own illnesses might harm their baby, fetuses are remarkably resilient. In most cases, a cough is harmless to a developing baby. The placenta provides fetuses with substantial protection from maternal illness. Pregnant women who experience illness should, however, consult their obstetricians. There are some circumstances under which a fetus might be harmed by a persistent cough.

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Coughs and Stress

Pregnant women frequently experience stress as a result of a bad cough. They might worry that the cough will harm their baby or that it indicates a serious illness. In some instances, the simple act of coughing can be both psychologically and physiologically stressful. When human bodies are stressed they release the hormone cortisol. This hormone can cross the placental barrier and negatively impact a developing fetus. However, fetuses can tolerate small quantities of cortisol. Babies born to women suffering from extreme stress, anxiety or trauma might suffer from birth defects and low birth weight. If your cough is causing you undue stress, consult your obstetrician or a mental health professional who specializes in pregnant women.

Coughs and Infection

The common cold, influenza and bronchitis do not typically affect fetuses, but if these illnesses are left untreated, an infection can spread throughout the body. Maternal infection might affect brain development, birth weight and physiological abnormalities. All symptoms you experience during pregnancy warrant a consultation with your obstetrician.

Coughs and Nutrition

A severe cough frequently interferes with a pregnant woman's ability to eat nutritious food, and coughs accompanied by fevers might cause a complete loss of appetite. If you've been coughing for several days and have had difficulty eating, call your obstetrician. Drink lots of water to remain hydrated.

Cough Home Remedies

Home remedies for coughs don't cure any underlying infections but do ease symptoms. Try taking 1/2 tsp. of honey four times a day for every 50 pounds of body weight. Install a humidifier in your bedroom to ease nighttime coughing and avoid sugary drinks, which cause dehydration and more coughing.

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  • "The Mayo Clinic Book of Home Remedies"; Mayo Clinic; 2010
  • "The Portable Pediatrician"; William Sears, et al.; 2011
  • "What's Going On in There?"; Lise Eliot; 2000
  • "Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy"; Mayo Clinic; 2011
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