I’m pregnant. What can I do to help protect myself during the flu season?
If you are pregnant, you need to be especially vigilant during this flu season. We always want to keep women healthy during their pregnancy, but with the outbreak of swine flu, also known as H1N1, this is more important than ever because this particular strain of the flu seems to affect pregnant women more severely than others.
The best ways to protect yourself are the same for any flu. Topping the list is proper and frequent hand washing, either with soap and water or alcohol-based hand cleaner, especially after you’ve been in public places. In addition:
• cough or sneeze into your inner elbow, not your hands
• avoid touching your mouth, nose, and eyes with your hands
• consider limiting your exposure to public places and large events
• avoiding shaking hands with others
• talk to your obstetrician or nurse-midwife about getting both the seasonal flu shot and the H1N1 flu shot
If you deliver your baby during flu season, there are steps you can take to protect both you and your new baby from flu infection:
• limit the number of family and friends who visit you while you are in the hospital.
• return home as soon as you are able after delivery.
• ask loved ones to delay their visits if they are feeling unwell.
• Ask friends and family to wash their hands or used alcohol-based hand cleaning gel before touching or holding your baby.
How do I know if I have the flu?
Symptoms of the flu come on suddenly and usually include:
• sudden fever and chills
• sore throat
• body aches
What should I do if I think I have the flu?
If you’re pregnant and think you have the flu, call your doctor or nurse-midwife right away for advice. Antiviral medication taken soon after infection may help shorten the duration and severity of the illness and reduce the risk of complications.
What will happen if I get the flu while I’m pregnant?
If you talk to your doctor or nurse-midwife as soon as your symptoms begin, you may be able to take antiviral medication. Most pregnant women will go on to have a typical course of uncomplicated influenza that can be treated at home.
However, for some, the illness might progress rapidly and be complicated by other infections, including pneumonia, that require hospitalization. Be sure to tell your health care provider if your symptoms get worse.
If you deliver your baby while you have the flu, special precautions will be taken at the hospital, and your newborn will be cared for in a separate nursery.