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Bronchitis During Pregnancy: Is It Dangerous?

Medically reviewed by Janie-Vi Villamor Ismael-Gorospe, MD · General Practitioner

Written by Jen Mallari · Updated Aug 24, 2022

    Bronchitis During Pregnancy: Is It Dangerous?

    Bronchitis is a health complication that affects the respiratory system, and it commonly occurs as a result of colds or other respiratory infections. This infection of the main airways of the lungs  is called acute bronchitis, and it usually does not require medical attention since it typically goes away after 10 weeks. Even then, bronchitis can cause health problems in those who are healthy, and can be of particular concern to pregnant women. How does bronchitis affect pregnancy? Are there any dangers that come with bronchitis in pregnancy? Will the baby be affected? We take a closer look at the answers, here.

    While acute bronchitis needs no treatment, if the bronchitis recurs, it becomes chronic bronchitis, and this condition needs medical attention. Symptoms that occur in chronic bronchitis are more severe and may eventually lead to long-term breathing difficulties.

    Can a Pregnant Woman Take OTC Medications? 

    Once a woman gets pregnant, their bodies undergo a number of changes. In addition, pregnant women need to be careful about the things they consume, such as medicine, since these may affect the health of their baby. 

    Over-the-counter (OTC) medications are commonly used to alleviate various kinds of discomfort. These medications are generally safe and require no prescription from a doctor; however, if a pregnant woman were to take over-the-counter medications, would it still be safe? 

    To ensure the safety of their unborn baby, there are certain guidelines that pregnant women must follow. Pregnant women can take OTC medications, but they must know exactly which medicines are safe to take and which to avoid. To be sure, always consult your doctor before taking any medication.

    OTC medications for common illnesses such as flu and cough can be taken by pregnant women. A list of some medications they can take are:

    • Benadryl
    • Robitussin®
    • Mucinex®
    • Hytuss 
    • Neldecon Senior EX 
    • Vicks Vapor Rub® (the mentholated cream)
    • Vicks 44 Cough Relief 
    • Cough drops (mentholated or non-mentholated)
    • Sudafed® (only after the 1st trimester) 
    • Tylenol®
    • Saline nasal drops or spray

    Pregnant women must avoid taking medications that are high in alcohol, phenylephrine, and pseudoephedrine content. 

    Bronchitis and Other Respiratory Issues During Pregnancy 

    During pregnancy, the respiratory system undergoes physiological adaptations such as increased oxygen requirements. Pulmonary resistance also decreases, possibly due to an increase of progesterone levels. And blood volume increases, which at times results in anemia if the woman is not getting enough iron. 

    The following respiratory issues can also occur in pregnant women:

    • Sinusitis – An inflammation of the tissues lining the sinuses
    • Bronchitis – An infection of the bronchi, the main airways of the lungs
    • Pneumonia – An infection and inflammation of the air sacs of the lungs caused by viruses, bacteria or fungi
    • Tuberculosis – A bacterial infection that mainly affects the lungs, but may also spread to other parts of the body

    How to Treat Bronchitis and Other Respiratory Issues During Pregnancy

    Bronchitis is the inflammation that affects the bronchial mucous membranes. Acute bronchitis usually occurs in pregnant women due to rhinovirus, influenza, and adenovirus. Also, cigarette smoking is often a  cause of acute bronchitis, aside from being a known cause of birth defects and health problems for developing babies.

    When women are diagnosed with acute bronchitis, they will start to experience a cough accompanied by occasional sputum production (spitting out mucus) and a low-grade fever. Chronic bronchitis on the other hand rarely occurs in pregnant women. 

    In some cases, doctors may prescribe antibiotics for pregnant women with acute bronchitis. But usually, the symptoms of acute bronchitis will subside on their own after a few days. The cough, however, may last longer; it may take months before it completely goes away. Your doctor may prescribe medications to manage your discomfort. As always, follow your doctor’s orders and consult your doctor before taking any medication.

    For other respiratory issues, such as sinusitis, pneumonia, and tuberculosis, the treatment varies. Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics or other medications. Before taking any treatment, it is best to consult your doctors on how these treatments will affect your pregnancy. In case of any serious respiratory illness, specialists will best be able to care for your health and your child’s. 

    Key Takeaway

    It is normal for pregnant women to be concerned about any complications that they may encounter during pregnancy because they do not want it to negatively affect the development of the baby in their womb. Your doctor is in the best position to prescribe the best and safest treatments for any respiratory illnesses. It is also imperative for pregnant women to educate themselves on what medications are safe. 

    Learn more about Respiratory Health here.


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Janie-Vi Villamor Ismael-Gorospe, MD

    General Practitioner

    Written by Jen Mallari · Updated Aug 24, 2022

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