Pneumonia in pregnancy is associated with a number of risks for mother and child, including premature labor and the risk of respiratory failure. Pregnant women tend to be at increased risk of developing pneumonia and other respiratory problems, and they are monitored closely so treatment can be provided rapidly, to prevent complications. Women who develop pneumonia while pregnant need to be treated aggressively to reduce morbidity and mortality rates, and fortunately many drugs approved for management of pneumonia are safe for use in pregnant women.
Pregnancy is believed to change the immune system, creating an increased susceptibility to infection. In addition, changes to the respiratory tract tend to occur during pregnancy. Women with existing respiratory problems like asthma tend to get worse during pregnancy, and because mucus secretion increases, even mild respiratory infections can quickly turn into pneumonia. Women who start wheezing, experiencing shortness of breath, and coughing during pregnancy should see a doctor for evaluation.
For the baby, the two primary concerns with pneumonia in pregnancy are low birth weight and premature birth. A low birth weight can be associated with developmental problems. Premature labor carries a number of risks, and in women who develop pneumonia in the early stages of pregnancy, the disease can cause miscarriage. Treating the pneumonia will greatly reduce these risks, as long as the medications used are safe for pregnant women. The earlier treatment is provided, the better the prognosis for mother and child.
Women who develop pneumonia in pregnancy are at increased risk of respiratory failure. If they experience this serious medical condition, it can put a serious load on the heart and other organs, in addition to requiring medical support like mechanical ventilation. This increases the risk of maternal morbidity and mortality; women may develop secondary complications from pneumonia and could die if the treatment is not effective.
Knowing about the risks of pneumonia in pregnancy, pregnant women can take steps to protect themselves. It is advisable to avoid contact with people who have respiratory infections and to wash the hands thoroughly several times a day, in case a woman has picked up bacteria or viruses during her daily activities. Women who need to be hospitalized during pregnancy should be kept away from patients in the hospital for respiratory problems to minimize contact with infectious secretions, and people contemplating hospital visits to friends or family may want to check with their obstetricians to see if it is safe.