Sore Throat While Pregnant: No Cause for Alarm

Sore Throat While Pregnant: No Cause for Alarm

If you’re pregnant, chances are that you’ve experienced some unwanted symptoms and side effects. However, you may not have been expecting your throat to suddenly become sore. If you develop a sore throat while pregnant, it’s only natural to be worried.

Not only may you have concerns about what may be causing the problem and whether or not it may affect your baby, but you may also be worried about how to treat it since many traditional medications are now off-limits.

Being pregnant can make treating even common ailments more complex since many medicines can’t be taken while pregnant. However, your own personal comfort and health are important as well so any illnesses you’re experiencing in pregnancy must be appropriately diagnosed and treated for your own well-being and that of your growing baby.

The good news is that a sore throat while pregnant rarely indicates a serious illness. Nevertheless, though, it can make you very uncomfortable. With this in mind, here’s all the information you need about how to treat your sore throat in pregnancy.

What Causes a Sore Throat?

A sore throat feels like there is irritation occurring at the back of your throat. Ranging from quite mild to extremely severe, it can feel like:

  • Burning pain
  • Rawness
  • Minor itching
  • Sandpaper-like, rough scratching
  • Sharp pain as if you’re swallowing shards of glass

Sore throats may be caused as a result of many things, from pregnancy hormones to environmental irritants and viruses. Some of the most commonly reported causes for sore throats while pregnant include:

Pregnancy Hormones

Your hormones fluctuate considerably during pregnancy, and this means your body can go through a number of oral symptoms like excessive thirst, dry mouth and, of course, a sore throat. Should this be the cause of your problem, you should try to drink warm beverages and suck lozenges to improve your comfort.


Most typical sore throats are caused as a result of viruses that also cause seasonal flu and common colds. There’s no point in taking antibiotics for viral infections as they aren’t effective, so the virus must be left to run its course over 5-7 days. There are some viruses, however, that are more serious than others.

The flu virus can be severe in pregnant women, causing complications including low birthweight and pre-term deliveries, but you can minimize your chance of getting it by having a flu shot at the start of your pregnancy to protect yourself and the baby.

Bacterial Infections

The most common form of bacterial infection causing sore throats is strep throat. Strep throat is accompanied by white spots or a white coating at the back of your throat and a high fever. If you’re prescribed antibiotics for strep throat you must finish the course, even if you’re feeling better.

Environmental Irritants

Many things may cause irritation in the nasal passages and throat resulting in discomfort. Dry air, pollen, dust, chemicals and smoke may all be to blame for your problem. If environmental irritants are causing your throat to be sore, you should try avoiding the source of the irritation. Using a humidifier in your home could help by moistening the air.

Postnasal Drip

When your sinuses are draining, the mucus will drip down into the back of the throat which causes irritation and a chronic cough. Postnasal drip often occurs after you’ve had a viral or bacterial sinus infection.

Weakened Immune System

when you’re pregnant, your immune system is less effective as it needs to protect your baby from being attacked by your body. You will, therefore, be more likely to catch infections.

Acid Reflux

Acid reflux occurs if your stomach contents, including the stomach acid inside it, back up into your esophagus. The symptoms of this condition include sore throats. Acid reflux is quite common in pregnancy as your digestive processes become slower and your digestive system becomes compressed.

Mostly, acid reflux in pregnancy is due to progesterone, a key pregnancy hormone which relaxes the muscles inside your esophagus resulting in food being brought up more easily.

Are Sore Throats Dangerous in Pregnancy?

a pregnant woman having a throat swab taken by a doctor

Sore throats aren’t actually dangerous in pregnancy, and while they can be a symptom of an ailment that is uncomfortable, serious implications are very rare. Sometimes, though, you might want to visit your doctor depending on the symptoms you’re experiencing.

If you have both a sore throat and a fever of over 100 degrees, you should seek medical advice. High temperatures indicate that you’re suffering from a condition that requires medical care and you have an elevated temperature for a prolonged period, this could harm your baby.

Sore Throat and the Flu

If you’re experiencing a sore throat along with chills, a fever and a feeling of malaise which comes on quite quickly, you could be suffering from the flu. This is particularly dangerous for pregnancy women however some antiviral medications have been made available for certain types of flu. Tamiflu, for example, is recommended for use in pregnancy by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention but it should be started in the initial 48 hours of symptoms for the best effect.

Sore Throat With a Rash

If you have a rash as well as a sore throat, this too could indicate an illness that require medical care, so see your doctor, and if you suddenly develop a severely sore throat with red or white spots at the back of it, you should visit your doctor to get a culture taken as you may be suffering from strep throat.

Strep Throat During Pregnancy

If you do have strep throat during pregnancy, there’s no need for undue concern. A lot of women think the bacteria causing strep throat is the one that doctors are checking for in the last month of pregnancy – Group B strep – which may spread from the rectal or vaginal area to the baby. The good news is that they aren’t the same at all.

Bacteria from strep throat won’t be able to spread to your baby so there’s no cause for concern. You can easily treat strep throat with antibiotics so you’ll probably be given a prescription should your doctor diagnose you with it. Taking the antibiotic will help prevent the complications which may arise associated with strep throat, including rheumatic fever and kidney issues.

Which Sore Throat Remedies Must I Avoid During Pregnancy?

There are a number of common remedies that you should avoid while you’re pregnant. These include:

  • Ibuprofen
  • Aspirin
  • Caffeinated teas
  • Zinc lozenges – if you’re taking prenatal vitamins, you may get too much zinc if you use these lozenges too. You should ask your doctor about whether it’s suitable for you to take and avoid them if advised otherwise.
  • Vitamin C supplements – usually, these are safe for you to use but if you’re taking prenatal vitamins that contain vitamin C already, you should consult your doctor to make sure you won’t be getting too much if you take these supplements.

Are There Any Medications I Can Take Safely While Pregnant?

Although there are some medications that must be avoided in pregnancy, there are some which can be used safely so long as you adhere to the correct dosing instructions. You should always talk to your doctor before taking any medications, though, to ensure they’re compatible with your pregnancy. They include:

  • Antibiotics – As these have to be prescribed by your doctor, you can be sure that one will be chosen which is suitable for use in pregnancy. Some common choices include penicillin, amoxicillin and cephalexin
  • Acetaminophen – This is the active ingredient found in Tylenol. Although it’s safe for use in pregnancy, if it is overused it could cause liver damage, so it should only be used sparingly
  • Throat sprays
  • Cough drops
  • Antacids – Rolaids or Tums are safe for use in pregnancy if you’re experiencing a sore throat due to acid reflux but you should take care to choose one which contains calcium carbonate, not sodium bicarbonate, since they may cause water retention

How Should I Treat My Sore Throat While Pregnant?

a pregnant woman holding tablets in her hand and a glass of water

When you’re pregnant, there are a few things to try if you have sore throat. These include:

Check Your Temperature

If your temperature is over 100 degrees, you could have an infection that requires treatment and you should see your doctor. High fevers in pregnancy may be risky for the baby, particularly during your first trimester.

Gargle With Salt Water

If you gargle with salty warm water, you can clear irritants from your throat while also loosening the mucus. Salt is very soothing and will also help draw out any excess moisture.

Simply add half a teaspoon of salt into a cup of warm water (not hot) then mix until it dissolves. Take a sip then tilt back your head and gargle, allowing the solution to reach to the back of your throat. Gargle for one minute then spit the water out into the wash basin.

Drink Lemon Tea

it’s often hard to drink enough liquid if your throat is sore. If you choose drinks that are hot and soothing you won’t just stay well-hydrated but you’ll also be able to loosen and thin the irritating mucus that is at the back of your throat.

Although herbal teas are popular in pregnancy since they have no caffeine content, it’s important to be aware that some herbs have medicinal properties that could be harmful in certain quantities. If you want to consume herbal teas you should speak to your doctor first. You should definitely avoid any teas containing licorice, cinnamon, red raspberry leaf or chamomile on your first trimester.

Throat Sprays and Lozenges

Generally, throat sprays and lozenges are safe for pregnant women to use. You can, therefore, use them freely to coat the throat and relieve your suffering. Some contain menthol that will relieve any other symptoms of a cold that you may have, while many throat sprays contain antiseptic to numb your throat and relieve the pain.

If you choose a throat lozenge and treats several symptoms, ensure you require all of the treatments that are listed. If you don’t choose a single-use lozenge to soothe only your throat instead. If you opt for a multi-symptom product when you’re not suffering from a cold which requires treatment, you could be over-medicating.

You should avoid taking zinc lozenges, which are designed for fighting colds instead of just soothing symptoms, and always speak to your doctor before you take any medications, even if they’re available over the counter.

Try Tylenol

This medication is believed to be safe for pregnant women to use so if you’re experiencing a severe sore throat you can take either Tylenol or a generic acetaminophen to relieve the pain.

Get Lots of Rest

During pregnancy, you have a suppressed immune system. Your body, therefore, must work harder in order to combat viruses and bacteria. You can boost your immune system and help it to function more effectively by getting lots of rest. This will allow your body to harness all of its energy to combat the bug.

Combating a Sore Throat While Pregnant

Although a sore throat while pregnant is irritating, uncomfortable or even painful, the fortunate news is that it will rarely be a sign of anything serious. Usually, so long as you’re experiencing no fever or other severe symptoms, your sore throat will simply be caused by environmental irritants or a cold virus.

There are lots of ways that you can help to relieve the discomfort that you’re experiencing, but you should still speak to your doctor before you take any kind of medication in pregnancy as even over the counter treatments may be harmful to you or your developing baby.