Pneumonia During Pregnancy - Causes, Symptoms And Prevention

Pneumonia During Pregnancy

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Do you know how lethal pneumonia can be during pregnancy? One of the leading infectious causes of death among children worldwide is the onset of pneumonia during pregnancy. This is most certainly a serious concern to address.

What Is Pneumonia?

An infection of one or both the lungs refers to Pneumonia. The major causes of pneumonia are germs like bacteria, virus, and fungi. The alveoli (air sacs) of an infected person’s lungs are inflated with fluids or pus.


Watch out for few of these major symptoms that can mean you have pneumonia. However, these symptoms can range from mild to severe depending on the type of germ causing the infection, age, and your overall health.

  • Persistent cough with phlegm
  • Breathing trouble
  • High fever and chills
  • Chest pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting(1)


Pneumonia spreads in several ways. The viruses and bacteria found in airborne droplets transmitted due to coughing and sneezing, when inhaled can cause pneumonia. It is also transmitted through blood, especially during and shortly after birth. Research is still underway on the other pathogens that possibly cause the disease.(2)

Pneumonia Symptoms In Pregnancy

The presence of maternal diseases like anemia and asthma increases increase the risk of developing pneumonia in pregnancy. These are signs of pneumonia in pregnancy.Subsequently, the infants who are born to such women are feared to have low birth weight and increased preterm birth. Serious complications can occur to the mother also in the form of respiratory failure. The prevalence of pneumonia in pregnancy ranges from 0.78 to 2.7 cases per 1000 deliveries. But since the advent of antibiotics, the maternal mortality rate has decreased from 20 to 3%. (3)

Risk Factors

Pregnancy appears to increase the risk of major complications associated with pregnancy.Pneumonia in pregnant mothers is associated with significant fetal morbidity. The infants born can have preterm labor, growth retardation, and premature birth. In severe cases, intrauterine and neonatal death also has been noted.

Respiratory disorders further worsen by the physiological changes associated with pregnancy coupled with the increased demand of the fetus. Therefore, a careful antenatal assessment is important.

Most cases of pneumonia during pregnancy are caused by organisms that do not affect the fetus, except through their effects on the maternal status. All women with pneumonia in pregnancy should compulsorily test for HIV. It is because the fetus may be at risk due to maternal conditions which cause pneumonia-like an HIV infection.(4)

Common Forms Of Pneumonia During Pregnancy

Pneumonia is classified into many categories depending on the nature of its transmission. We will discuss here the general forms significantly visible in pregnant women.

1. Bacterial Pneumonia:

Pneumonia in pregnancy is most commonly bacterial in origin. The pneumonia thus developed is mostly community-acquired pneumonia. But the diagnosis is often delayed due to the unnecessary fear of exposing the fetus to X-ray radiation. It is not advisable to perform X-ray scan tests to assess the prevalence of pneumonia in pregnant women, for the fear of fetal exposure to radiation. However, the risks from a single X-ray scan far outweigh the benefits of an early detection of the disorder. The safest form of treatment administered during this time is the usage of antibiotics like Beta-lactam and macrolide.

[ Read: Bacterial Infections During Pregnancy ]

2. Viral Pneumonia:

A case of viral pneumonia in pregnant women can be more dangerous. The viral respiratory infections can be varicella, influenza, and an acute respiratory syndrome. However, antiviral and respiratory therapies can reduce maternal morbidity and death rates. It would be good to take an influenza vaccination in pregnancy as a preventive measure, especially during the influenza season. (5)

Oseltamivir for influenza and acyclovir for varicella are the suggested therapies for the treatment.

3. Fungal Pneumonia:

Though an uncommon form of pneumonia in pregnancy, the fungus Coccidioidomycosis is more likely to disseminate in the third trimester. Subsequently, the infected woman is likely to have an impairment of the cell-mediated immunity and the stimulatory effect of progesterone. The accepted therapy for fungal pneumonia is Amphotericin B. (6)

Prompt diagnosis and treatment with up-to-date antimicrobial therapy and intensive care unit management of respiratory compromise will reduce the risk associated with pneumonia in pregnancy.


Ensure your safety by following these preventive measures.

  • Get vaccinated
  • Give attention to personal hygiene, especially the hands
  • Avoid or limit contact with the sick
  • Eat well, sleep well and build strong immunity (7)

Keep reading about similar health hazards that are likely to develop in pregnancy. And then, find measures to keep them at bay. Stay safe! Do you have a fear of developing similar respiratory infections in pregnancy? Share your queries with us.

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