Flu In Pregnancy

During pregnancy, as your body is working overtime to grow and nourish a new little life inside of you, your immune system can become weakened. As different levels of stress are put on your body during different stages of pregnancy, your immune system's function and the stress that it undergoes will vary slightly as well.

In any case, pregnant women tend to be more susceptible to influenza and other viral illnesses. They are more likely to become hospitalized with influenza than other healthy women of the same age. It is more likely that influenza will affect a pregnant woman's heart or lungs while ill with influenza, increasing their risk of complications associated with the virus.

The Influenza Virus

Influenza, commonly known as “the flu”, should not be mistaken for the “stomach flu”. Influenza is a contagious respiratory illness that is caused by a virus.

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Symptoms include:
– High Fever
– Extreme Tiredness / Exhaustion
– Headache and Sinus Pressure
– Coughing
– Sore Throat
– Runny or Stuffy Nose
– Muscle Aches

Those with influenza, especially children, may also experience nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea.

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Flu Shot and Pregnancy – Is it Safe?

The debate is still strong as to whether or not the flu shot is safe during pregnancy. The CDC says yes, but others (including myself) have their doubts.

Package inserts for the 2010-2011 influenza vaccines state that no adequate or well-controlled studies have been conducted on the safety of influenza vaccines on pregnant women or infants and young children. Those who support vaccines during pregnancy often give a “weakened immune system” as a reason to get the influenza vaccine; However, package inserts warn against the use of vaccines on individuals whose immune system may be weakened or compromised.

If you do decide to get the influenza vaccine during your pregnancy, get the shot and NOT the nasal flu mist, as it is not approved for use during pregnancy. In addition, you should not get the influenza vaccine if you are allergic to eggs, as the vaccine contains egg products.

Preventing Influenza

Prevention is key if you are pregnant during the flu season. In order to decrease your chances of becoming ill, follow these precautions:

  • Avoid close contact with those who are sick.
  • Wash your hands before eating and before touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick and encourage others to do the same.
  • Take your prenatal vitamins regularly and consider taking the following extras: Vitamin D, Vitamin C, Calcium, and Folic Acid.

What If I'm Sick?

If you believe that you are sick with influenza you should listen to your body carefully for what to do. Get plenty of rest and drink plenty of “clear” liquids to stay well hydrated. Check with your doctor before taking any over the counter medications; Many over the counter medications are not safe for pregnant women to use. Increase your Vitamin C intake through vitamin capsules and/or foods. If your symptoms become worrisome, check with your doctor or make an appointment asap.

Vanessa Pruitt, PLMHP, MS

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