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Swine Flu and Pregnancy Q & A
While everyone is concerned with the further spread of swine flu, should pregnant women be more worried?
-Lissa Rankin, M.D.
Is there a special risk associated with swine flu and pregnancy? Gynecologist Lissa Rankin answers that question and more.
If I’m pregnant and I get swine flu, will it hurt my baby?
While pregnant women are more susceptible to influenza viruses and can suffer more seriously, most pregnant women will recover just fine from the flu- swine flu included. But there is some risk, so you want to be sure to protect yourself. If pregnant women get swine flu, they will be more susceptible to dehydration, which can cause the uterus to contract and put them at risk of preterm labor. Staying hydrated is critical. If you are throwing up or have diarrhea, alert your doctor. You may need IV fluids to protect you from delivering your baby prematurely. As long as you don’t deliver early or miscarry, the baby should be fine. The baby will be protected as long as it is safe in the uterus, and there should be no long-term complications, the way there can be with some other viruses, like cytomegalovirus (CMV) or the rubella virus.
What can I do to avoid getting swine flu if I’m pregnant?
Wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands. For more tips on swine flu prevention for everyone, check out Swine Flu Myths and Facts.
Why are pregnant women more susceptible to influenza viruses?
Pregnant women are more susceptible to all infections, because the immune system is naturally suppressed during pregnancy, in order to prevent you from fighting your baby as something foreign. Because the immune system is weakened, and there are two lives we need to care for, treating the flu during pregnancy can be more difficult, but with proper management, most pregnant women will recover and be healthy. So take care, but don’t panic.
Is it safe to take Echinacea during pregnancy?
Experts are mixed on this issue, but most agree that it is safe during pregnancy. A randomized study evaluated the pregnancy outcomes of women who were exposed to Echinacea during pregnancy and found no evidence of harm, but the study was small. This is the only study performed to date, and the results appear encouraging. But larger studies are needed to know definitively if Echinacea is safe in pregnancy.
I got the flu vaccine during my pregnancy. Does that mean I’m protected from swine flu?
We OB/GYN’s recommend the flu vaccine during pregnancy because you’re at higher risk during pregnancy because of your suppressed immune state. While the swine flu strain is different than the strains the vaccine immunizes you against, there may be some benefit to the flu vaccine with regard to swine flu.
I didn’t get the flu vaccine this year, but I’m pregnant. Should I get one?
I recommend the flu vaccine to all pregnant women. And while it’s late in the year, if you have access to the flu vaccine, I would recommend it. If nothing else, it may help prevent an ordinary strain of influenza and keep you from worrying.
What are the symptoms of swine flu. How will I know if I have it?
Fever, cough, fatigue, diarrhea, and nausea/vomiting are the most common symptoms. While these symptoms are the same symptoms associated with the more common strains of the flu, regular flu season is winding down. So if you have symptoms, alert your physician.
How can you test for swine flu?
A real-time RT-PCR test or a viral culture performed on a respiratory specimen will diagnose swine flu.
Is there a cure for swine flu?
Like most viruses, there is no easy cure for swine flu the way penicillin cures strep throat. But there are anti-viral drugs that are effective in reducing the symptoms of swine flu. Empiric anti-viral treatment is recommended for any ill person suspected of having swine flu. Anti-viral treatment with either zanamivir alone or with a combination of oseltamivir and eitheramantadine or rimantadine should be initiated as soon as possible after the onset of symptoms. The recommended duration of treatment is five days. Recommendations for use of antivirals may change as data on antiviral susceptibilities become available. The CDC‘s web site has more information on dosing.
Are anti-viral drugs safe in pregnancy?
Oseltamivir, zanamivir, amantadine, and rimantadine are all “Pregnancy Category C” medications, meaning that we have no evidence that it’s harmful, but no clear evidence that it’s safe. According to the CDC, only two cases of amantadine use for severe influenza illness during the thirdtrimester have been reported. However, both amantadine and rimantadine have been demonstrated to cause birth defects in animal studies when given at very high doses. Because we can’t know for sure that they’re safe, these drugs should be used during pregnancy only if the potential benefit justifies the potential risk. However, no adverse effects to pregnant women or their fetuses/infants have been reported among women who received oseltamivir or zanamivir during pregnancy.
Lissa Rankin is a gynecologist and author. She blogs at owningpink.com, and you can follow her on Twitter at @lissarankin