The flu? No thanks. Getting the flu while pregnant? Super-extra-no thanks.
Catching influenza during pregnancy puts us and our babies at higher risk for health complications. To make matters worse, our immune systems are weaker during pregnancy. Our bodies are already working extra hard to keep a growing human alive, and this stress leaves our bodies extra susceptible to illness.
Put on your supermom cape and guard yourself and your little one against flu season. Know the risks and symptoms as well as how to prevent and treat them.
WHAT ACTUALLY IS THE FLU?
The flu (or influenza, if you want to be fancy) is a virus that spreads easily from person to person. It can spread through the air when someone coughs or sneezes. Flu germs can build on commonly used items like door handles and phones; touching those items and then touching our eyes, ears, and mouths could carry the virus into our systems. Common flu symptoms include:
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
- Shortness of breath/Cough
- Loss of appetite
- Diarrhea or vomiting
- Sudden chills or fever
- Body aches
The flu typically lasts about a week, but can last longer in pregnant women and children.
WHY IS IT A BIGGER DEAL DURING PREGNANCY?
If we get the flu while pregnant, we’re more likely to feel more severe symptoms and be sick longer. Growing baby bumps put extra pressure on the lungs. Add in the flu and its effects on the lungs, and breathing gets that much harder.
Not only that: according to the American Pregnancy Association, some studies have shown that having the flu while pregnant can increase the risk of preterm labor/birth and delivering low-birth-weight babies. These issues can then lead to more complications for us and our babies. Not good. So yes, let’s take the flu seriously, especially during pregnancy.
HOW CAN I PREVENT THE FLU?
Take the flu seriously, but also take comfort in the fact that there is a lot you can do to protect yourself and your baby!
- Wash your hands thoroughly and often.
- Eat a well-balanced diets with plenty of fruits and vegetables.
- Sleep 7-9 hours every night.
- Stay away from crowds and anyone who’s sick.
- Keep your hands away from your face as much as possible.
- Don’t share food and drinks with others.
GET THE FLU SHOT!
The CDC recommends all pregnant women to get the flu shot. The flu vaccine is safe for pregnant women and their unborn babies, since it does not contain a live virus and it’s impossible to get the flu from it. However, the nasal spray and mist options are not recommended, as they contain a weak but live virus.
This vaccine will not only protect us, but it also gives our developing babies an extra boost. It can continue to protect baby from the flu even six months after birth.
WHAT IF I GET THE FLU?
Contact your doctor immediately. He or she can prescribe you pregnancy-safe antiviral medications. Taking these meds ASAP can reduce the risks associated with the flu and decrease the amount of time you’d be sick. You should especially seek immediate medical attention if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Feeling your baby move less or not at all
- High fever that doesn’t go down after taking acetaminophen (Tylenol®). Don’t take any medicine without checking with your provider first.
- Pain or pressure in the chest or belly
- Signs or symptoms of flu that get better but then come back with fever and a worse cough
- Sudden dizziness
- Trouble breathing or shortness of breath
- Vomiting that’s severe or doesn’t stop
As always, we should talk to our doctors before taking any sort of medication or getting any vaccines. Ask your pregnancy care team more about how you can best take care of your body and your baby through the flu season and beyond!
Want to learn more about prenatal care and parenting? Lifeline Pregnancy Help Clinic offers education, pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, counseling, and more at no-cost. Call or click below to make your appointment with us today.