These days it is very common to hear about H1N1 swine flu affecting the general population. However, if you are pregnant, the risks that you entail are far severe.
Scary as it sounds, most pregnant women afflicted with it may not have a serious problem. But there are cases who need to be hospitalized and are at higher risk of death and complications.
Why are you a soft target?
- Changes in the immune system when you are pregnant can make you more susceptible to infections.
- As the fetus grows and develops, there is more pressure on the mother’s breathing and lungs.
- This increases the risk of secondary infections such as pneumonia.
- Pregnant women in the third trimester are at the highest risk.
What is the best way to avoid it?
- Avoid contact with anyone who is suffering from the flu –like symptoms, including fever, respiratory problems, muscle aches etc. Avoid contact with people who are in touch with those who are infected.
- Avoid crowded places if you know there has been an outbreak of flu in that area.
- Wash your hands frequently. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth and nose.
What is the best course of treatment?
- Take anti viral medicine as soon as possible ( Tamiflu/Relenza)
- If you are pregnant and have had close contact with someone who had the flu, then you should be considered for treatment with anti viral medication.
Risks involving the medication
- There has been no established connection between the drug use and adverse effects on the baby.
- The risk of complications that may arise due to the flu far outweigh any adverse effects arising out of the medication.
Risks involving the infection
- During a severe infection, it is possible that the virus could affect the placenta, which carries blood to the fetus.
- If you have swine flu, it is likely that you are at a higher risk for premature delivery.
- Women with swine flu also seem to have higher incidences of still birth and spontaneous abortion.
- Fever in the first trimester can double the risk of neural tube defects and may have other adverse outcomes.
Precautions to be taken during labour and child birth
- The hospital should be informed about your condition. They should be prepared for this type of delivery.
- You should be wearing a surgical mask during labour and delivery.
- Have your medication and wait for 48 hours and the fever to fully resolve. Avoid any contact with your baby till then. This will reduce the risk of transmitting the disease to your baby.
- Let an adult who is well and healthy care for your baby until you feel better. Wait at least seven days from the onset of symptoms, to take charge of your baby.
- If you are feeling healthy enough, then you can breastfeed your baby. Do wear a surgical mask when you do so. Or you could express milk and another adult could feed your baby. There is a very rare chance of the infection spreading through the mother’s milk to your baby.
Whenever the vaccine for H1N1 is made available, pregnant women like you have to be first in the line to receive it.