Catching the flu is never good, and especially not when you’re expecting. The illness can be more severe when you’re pregnant, and it may last three times longer in moms-to-be. You may be more likely to get complications like pneumonia, too, that could lead to hospitalization. And a serious flu raises the risk of preterm labor and delivery.
On the bright side, a flu isn’t likely to hurt your baby. And being pregnant doesn’t make you any more likely to get the flu than women your age who aren’t expecting. Best of all, there are easy ways to avoid it and have a healthy pregnancy.
What's the Best Way to Prevent the Flu?
Get a flu shot. The vaccine is the number one way to prevent this illness. You can get the shot no matter how far along you are -- even the third trimester isn’t too late.
Flu season can begin as early as October and last as late as May. October or November is the best time to get vaccinated, but you can get the shot as long as it's being offered.
The shot will protect both you and the baby from getting the flu for 6 months after you give birth. This is especially important, because the flu shot isn’t safe for infants less than 6 months old.
If you have had contact with someone who has the flu, your doctor may recommend that you take an antiviral medication as a prevention measure.
Is the Flu Shot Safe?
It doesn’t contain the live virus and can’t give you the flu. You may have fatigue and muscle aches afterward as your immune system responds to the vaccine.
The flu shot is also OK while you’re breastfeeding. It can’t cause you or your nursing baby to get sick. The shot takes about 2 weeks to work.
Pregnant women should not get the nasal flu vaccine.Pregnant women should not use a nasal flu vaccine called FluMist that contains live but weakened viruses. It has not been tested for safety during pregnancy.
Where Do You Get a Flu Shot?
The American Lung Association offers an online flu vaccine clinic locator. Visit the site, enter a zip code and a date (or dates), and you’ll get information about clinics in your area.
Pharmacies offer the flu shots, as do local health departments and your doctor's office.
How Should I Treat My Symptoms?
Call your doctor before you take any over-the-counter treatment.
Your doctor may suggest:
- Acetaminophen, the preferred treatment for fever, aches, and pains
- Saline nasal spray or nasal irrigation
- Pseudoephedrine, the decongestant, may be helpful. Avoid it in the first trimester or if you have high blood pressure.
You can usually find these treatments among over-the-counter cold and flu remedies. Check labels carefully.
Your doctor will know what prescription drug you can use. There are 4 to choose from: baloxavir marboxil (Xofluza), oseltamivir (Tamiflu), peramivir (Rapivab), or zanamivir (Relenza) in pregnant women with suspected or test-proven flu. Xofluza and oseltamivir are taken by mouth are preferred because of their safety and effectiveness.
Are There Any Natural Treatments?
Pregnant women should take antiviral drugs as a first-line treatment. For symptoms, try these four natural flu remedies:
How Do You Prevent the Flu?
Get a flu shot. Don’t use FluMist, the nasal spray influenza vaccine. It isn’t recommended for pregnant women.
To avoid catching the illness when you’re pregnant:
- Wash your hands often.
- Avoid crowds.
- Stay away from people who have a cold.
- Don’t touch your eyes, nose, or mouth. Germs are often spread when you touch a contaminated surface and then touch these areas.
When Should You Call the Doctor?
- You have trouble breathing.
- Your symptoms don't improve or get worse after 3 to 4 days.
- After feeling a little better, you start having signs of a more serious problem, like a sick-to-your-stomach feeling, vomiting, high fever, shaking chills, chest pain, or coughing with thick, yellow-green mucus.