Swine Flu and Pregnancy
Can a pregnant woman pass swine flu to her unborn baby?
“During severe infections with pandemic strains of influenza, it’s possible that the virus could infect the placenta, which carries blood to the fetus,” says Phillippe. While its to soon to know much about how swine flu affects a fetus, women with swine flu do seem to be at a higher risk for premature delivery. In past pandemics, pregnant women with flu had higher rates of stillbirth, spontaneous abortion, and premature birth.
Also, flu comes with fever. Studies have shown that a fever during the first trimester doubles the risk of neural tube defects and may be associated with other adverse outcomes. The risk for birth defects associated with fever may be mitigated by the use of anti-fever medications and/or a multivitamin that contains folic acid, but data are limited.
What happens if a woman comes down with swine flu right before her baby is born, or when the baby is a newborn?
She should deliver the baby at a hospital that is prepared for this type of delivery. A surgical mask should be placed on the ill mother during labor and delivery, and she should consider avoiding close contact with her infant until she has received antiviral medications for 48 hours and her fever has fully resolved. This will reduce, but not eliminate, the risk of transmitting H1N1 to the infant.
Infants are thought to be at higher risk for severe illness if they get swine flu, and very little is known about prevention in infants. If possible, only adults who are well should care for infants, including feedings.
If she gets sick after the delivery, her newborn should be cared for by someone who is well, until she feels better and for at least seven days after the onset of her symptoms. She may begin breastfeeding (or if not able to breastfeed, bottle feeding), and should wear a face mask.
Can a new mom with swine flu breastfeed her baby?
Breastfeeding is an option if a sick mother has recovered enough from the virus. The risk for transmission of the virus through breast milk is unknown but is probably rare. Actively infected women who are able to express their milk for bottle feedings should let a healthy family member take over feedings. If the mother is taking an antiviral medication, she can still breastfeed. But she needs to be on the antiviral medication for at least 48 hours beforehand.