Pregnant women, even ones who are healthy, can have medical complications from the seasonal flu.
If you are pregnant, use the following tips to prepare for the flu season from Flu.gov, which provides one-stop access to U.S. Government flu information.
1. Get vaccinated
If you are pregnant, you should get the seasonal flu vaccine as soon as possible. Pregnant women are among the high risk groups for flu complications.
2. Pay attention to your body
If you are pregnant, you should pay close attention to your body and how you are feeling. If you get sick with flu-like symptoms, stay home, limit contact with others, and call your doctor. Your doctor will decide if testing or treatment is needed.
Testing for the flu may include a nasal swab which is best to do within the first 4-5 days of getting sick. If you are alone, have someone check in with you often if you are feeling ill.
If you have close contact with someone who has the flu or is being treated for flu, contact your doctor to discuss whether you need treatment to reduce your chances of getting the flu.
3. If you are diagnosed with the flu, get treatment
Treat any fever right away. Acetaminophen (Tylenol®) is the best treatment of fever in pregnancy.
Drink plenty of fluids to replace those you lose when you are sick.
Your doctor will decide if you need antiviral drugs such as Oseltamivir (Tamiflu®) or Zanamivir (Relenza®). These medicines can make you feel better faster and make your symptoms milder. Because of its systemic activity, oseltamivir (Tamiflu®) is preferred for treatment of pregnant women.
Oseltamivir (Tamiflu®) and Zanamivir (Relenza®) work best when started soon after symptoms begin (within two days), but they may also be given to very sick or high risk people (like pregnant women) even after 48 hours.
Oseltamivir (Tamiflu®) and Zanamivir (Relenza®) are taken for 10 days.
There is little information about the effect of antiviral drugs in pregnant women or their babies, but no serious side effects have been reported. If you do think you have had a side effect to antiviral drugs, call your doctor right away.
4. Seek emergency care
Seek emergency medical care right away if you have:
Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
Severe or persistent vomiting
Decreased or no movement of your baby
A high fever that is not responding to Tylenol®
5. Keep breastfeeding your baby
A mother’s milk is made to fight diseases in her baby. This is highly important in young babies whose immune system is still growing.
Do not stop breastfeeding if you are ill. Mothers who are breastfeeding can continue to nurse their babies while being treated for the flu. If you are too sick to breastfeed, pump and have someone give the expressed milk to your baby.
If you do get the flu, be careful not to cough or sneeze in the baby’s face and wash your hands often with soap and water. Your doctor might ask you to wear a mask to help keep from spreading the flu virus to your baby.