Pregnancy and the Flu

It seems like a lot of people have had the flu this year, and it doesn’t sound like much fun! These poor folks describe days of fever, sore throat, muscle aches, and overall awfulness. I can’t imagine washing my hands any more than I already do, but I’m going to try!

What is the flu?

The flu, or influenza, is a viral infection that is spread easily through the air or from contaminated surfaces. It can be a serious threat to anyone, but it’s particularly dangerous for someone with a compromised immune system.

And—guess what?—pregnancy naturally compromises a woman’s immune system.

What are the common symptoms of the flu?

The most common symptoms include fever, cough, chills, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue, and (less common) nausea and diarrhea. For some, these symptoms will only last a few days. But for others, particularly those with weakened immune systems, the symptoms can last for much longer.

What is the risk during pregnancy?

Pregnant women with the flu have been found to be more likely to experience miscarriage, pre-term labor, and pre-term delivery. And since any pregnancy can make breathing more difficult for a woman (due to pressure from the enlarging uterus), a pregnant woman with the flu might find these breathing difficulties exaggerated, which could create an oxygen deficiency for both her and her baby.

What should you do during flu season if you’re pregnant?

You should get a flu shot every year. This is particularly important if you are pregnant or planning to get pregnant. The vaccine has been shown to be safe in pregnancy. Pregnant women, however, should not take the flu mist. If you cannot take the flu shot for any reason, then try to avoid people that you know are sick. Wash your hands frequently and decontaminate surfaces after others have touched them.

If you do end up with the flu in pregnancy

  • Call your healthcare provider immediately.
  • While you are still early in the illness, you can take an antiviral medication that will decrease the severity of the flu.
  • Try flu fighting foods
  • If you are too far into the illness for the antiviral, you will still need to be evaluated.
  • The flu can result in pneumonia in some people. This is a serious complication but it can be treated with antibiotics.
  • You might need to be admitted to the hospital for IV fluids or other support.
  • If your healthcare provider allows you to stay home, you may take Tylenol for fever and you should drink fluids liberally.
  • You might find small, frequent meals easier to eat and digest than larger meals taken at longer intervals.
  • Stay home, avoid unnecessary contact with others, and wash hands and surfaces frequently.
    Keep your healthcare provider aware of your condition.

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