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Treatment of respiratory infections in pregnant women

Lucia Larson, MD
Thomas M File, Jr, MD
Section Editors
Vincenzo Berghella, MD
John G Bartlett, MD
Deputy Editor
Vanessa A Barss, MD, FACOG


The clinical features, diagnosis, and management of respiratory infection are generally similar in pregnant and nonpregnant patients. However, some additional factors need to be considered in pregnancy, including changes in susceptibility to infection, changes in maternal physiology, and the effect of the infection and its treatment on the fetus.

This topic review will discuss issues specific to respiratory infections in the setting of pregnancy. Clinical manifestations, diagnosis, and management of respiratory infections in the general population are reviewed separately (refer to individual topic reviews).


Awareness of pregnancy-associated changes in respiratory physiology is important to the management of respiratory disease in pregnancy (figure 1 and figure 2). Such changes allow the pregnant woman to meet the metabolic needs of her fetus and are discussed in detail elsewhere. (See "Maternal adaptations to pregnancy: Physiologic respiratory changes and dyspnea", section on 'Respiratory changes'.)

Important points to consider when evaluating pregnant women with respiratory illness include:

Although pregnant women often experience dyspnea, tachypnea is not normal. The respiratory system adapts to increased needs largely by an increase in tidal volume without an increase in respiratory rate. (See "Maternal adaptations to pregnancy: Physiologic respiratory changes and dyspnea", section on 'Respiratory changes'.)

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Feb 03, 2017.
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