Swine Flu and Pregnancy

When you’re pregnant, the last thing you want to be is sick. Swine flu, as most people call it, is something you want to look out for. Your doctor or nurse may call it pH1N1. You can take steps to prevent it and lessen its impact on you both.

If you get pH1N1, chances are it won’t lead to serious health problems. But it may last longer than it would if you weren’t pregnant, and there is a higher chance it could lead to pneumonia. Changes to your immune system during pregnancy make it harder for you to fight infections. Swine flu can lead to early labor and delivery, and in rare cases might hurt your baby.

Get a Flu Shot

The best way to protect against swine flu is the seasonal flu shot. Getting the vaccine while you are pregnant helps protect your baby before and after birth.

Aim to get a shot as soon as it’s offered in your area. But even if you don’t get around to it until later in the season, you should still get one. It's safe to get any time during your pregnancy. Pregnant women should not get the nasal spray vaccine.

Avoid Exposure

Like all the flu strains, pH1N1 can be spread through the air -- by coughs or sneezes. It can linger on surfaces, like someone's hand, after the person sneezes into it. Protect yourself and your baby the same way you do against all infections.

Know the Symptoms

Swine flu symptoms are like those of other flu strains:

You may also throw up or have diarrhea.

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When to See Your Doctor

If you think you may have the flu, or you have been in contact with someone who has it, call your doctor as soon as possible. She’ll decide if you should take one of these antiviral drugs:

Osteltamivir is the preferred drug for pregnant women. It’s shown to be the safest and to offer the most benefits.

You can take these drugs anytime during your pregnancy. If you care for or live with someone who has the flu, your doctor may also advise you to take an antiviral drug up to 2 weeks after your baby is born.

When to Get Emergency Care

Get medical care right away if you:

  • Have shortness of breath or trouble breathing
  • Get suddenly dizzy or confused
  • Feel pain or pressure in your chest
  • Have severe or constant vomiting
  • Run a high fever
  • Notice less or no movement from your baby

Keeping Baby Safe

Newborns who get any flu are can have serious problems as a result. If you have the flu when you go into labor, hospital staff will take steps to protect your baby from getting it. They may tell you to wear a surgical mask during labor and delivery.

You'll probably need to avoid close contact with your newborn -- including nursing and sleeping in the same room -- until you've taken an antiviral drug for 48 hours and your symptoms improve. During this time, you can pump breast milk so someone who doesn’t have the flu can bottle-feed it to your baby.

Breastfeeding and Swine Flu

If you get the flu after your baby is born, let the doctor know. You may need to stop nursing until you start treatment.

Breast milk has antibodies that can help your baby fight off the virus. You can take flu drugs while you are breastfeeding.

Protect your infant by washing your hands before touching him. Wear a mask when you breastfeed. Don't cough or sneeze into your elbow, where you cradle your baby's head while nursing.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Nivin Todd, MD on May 06, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

CDC: "Notice to Clinicians: Early Reports of pH1N1-Associated Illnesses for the 2013-14 Influenza Season," "Guidance for the Prevention and Control of Influenza in the Peri- and Postpartum Settings."

East Ontario Health Unit: "Breastfeeding and H1N1."

Flu.gov: "Pregnant Women," "Prevention."

March of Dimes: "Influenza (flu) and pregnancy."

Massachusetts Department of Public Health: "Fact Sheet: Swine Flu."

Palo Alto Medical Foundation: "Pregnancy and the Flu."

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