What Pregnant Women Need to Know About Swine Flu – Risks, Statistics, Prevention, and Vaccination
A pregnant woman who suspects that she might have swine flu should call or see her doctor immediately. In fact, the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) even advises that pregnant women should call their doctor if they've been in close contact with anyone who has swine flu.
Facts about Swine Flu in Pregnant Women
- Up until mid-October 2009, 6% of swine flu related deaths in the US have been in pregnant women.
- Pregnant women have also been hospitalized more as a result of swine flu compared to the general population.
- In a recent study, pregnant women given seasonal flu shots in a recent study passed the positive effects of immunization to their unborn child, significantly reducing flu sickness in babies younger than 6 months.
- The new H1N1 vaccine for pregnant women is currently undergoing trials to determine its safety. So far flu shots have not been deemed harmful for pregnant women.
Why are Pregnant Women at Higher Risk from Swine Flu?
Pregnant women are a high-risk group for swine flu complications because the illness may cause complications such as pneumonia and premature labor. A woman's immune system may be somewhat weakened during pregnancy, making her more susceptible to illness in general. Anything that causes a pregnant woman distress, may ultimately cause fetal distress as well.
How Can Pregnant Women Prevent Getting Swine Flu?
The precautions for pregnant women are the same as for the rest of the population. The top things to do for prevention are:
- Regularly and thoroughly wash hands
- Avoid contact with people infected with swine flu
- Get a flu shot
Are Swine Flu Vaccinations Safe for Pregnant Women?
The first step in swine flu prevention is protection. Pregnant women can significantly reduce their chances of contracting swine flu by getting an annual flu shot. Flu shots for the current strain of the H1N1 flu virus are expected to be available by October 2009 for the flu season lasting through February 2010.
Pregnant women should consult with their doctor to schedule a flu shot as soon as one becomes available in their region. The CDC advises pregnant women to get two vaccinations: a seasonal flu shot combined with the H1N1 (swine flu causing virus) flu shot. Taken together they are more effective in protecting pregnant women and their fetuses from a flu-like illness. Both flu shots are regarded as safe for pregnant women to take.
What Should Pregnant Women Do if They Have Swine Flu?
The best course of action for an infected pregnant woman is to stay at home, avoid infecting others, and call or see her doctor right away. The doctor will most likely put her on anti-viral medication such as Tamiflu or Relenza. If she has a fever, she can take acetaminophen (e.g. Tylenol). A typical course of anti-viral medication runs for 5 days and can be taken anytime during pregnancy. It has not shown to have any harmful effects on the growing fetus.