Swine flu and pregnancy

Swine flu is a highly contagious respiratory disease. Pregnant women are at a higher risk of complications from swine flu, especially during the first and second trimesters because of:
• A weakened immune system during pregnancy
• Increased pressure on the breathing and lung function on account of the growing fetus thereby, making them more susceptible to secondary infections such as pneumonia

Symptoms
• Fever (in most cases)
• Dry cough
• Sore throat
• Runny or stuffy nose
• Body aches
• Headaches
• Chills

Risk during Pregnancy
• Pregnant women with flu have a higher risk of premature delivery or spontaneous abortion
• In case of severe infections, the virus could infect the placenta which carries blood to the fetus
• If left untreated, swine flu can have severe adverse outcomes including threat to the lives of both mother and the fetus

Treatment
• Swine flu during pregnancy is treated administering antiviral drugs such as Tamiflu (oseltamivir) or Relenza (zanamivir). The antiviral treatment can be done at any state of pregnancy
• Apart from the medicine, supportive care includes:
– Getting lots of rest
– Drinking plenty of fluids
– Isolating the patient to reduce further exposure to the virus/ infection

Important Information
If the mother is infected with swine flu right before delivery or when the baby is a newborn, a surgical mask should be placed on her (a) during labor and delivery; and (b) during breastfeeding so as not to infect the newborn.
When the mother is on antiviral medication, it is considered safe to breastfeed provided she has been on the medication for at least 48 hours beforehand.

Prevention
• Getting a flu shot is the best method of prevention against swine flu. Note that in case of pregnant women, inactivated vaccine should be administered. Live vaccine is not recommended as the immune system is already suppressed during pregnancy
• Avoid contact with infected people. Do not go to crowded places and avoid visiting public places
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth so that infection is not contracted by touching an infected surface
• Wash your hands frequently through the day with warm water and soap; or with an alcohol based hand sanitiser
• To ensure that you are not spreading the virus, cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and dispose it after use

Call your doctor
1. As soon as you notice flu-like symptoms. The treatment is more effective if started early
2. If you have come in close contact with someone who has flu or flu-like symptoms

Team Ovum Hospitals