The immune system of pregnant women is compromised, making it more likely that complications may develop from flu during pregnancy. Suppression of immunity is a natural change that occurs in the body to help continue a healthy pregnancy, but it does leave women more vulnerable to infection.
Statistically, pregnant women are more likely to develop flu complications or to need hospitalization for their infection than the general populace.
Having said this however, it is important not to be stressed about flu during pregnancy since most pregnant women go on to have no complications at all and continue a normal pregnancy culminating in a healthy baby.
Reasons for women to be extra careful about flu in pregnancy
Not only is a woman’s immune system below par during pregnancy, flu is also an infection that spreads easily and quickly, particularly during the flu season. It only takes a handshake from an infected person or a sneeze from them while you’re standing close, or even being in the same room as them for a length of time, for the infection to spread.
Already laid low by the symptoms and discomforts of a pregnancy, the added symptoms of the flu during pregnancy can really make a woman feel terrible. They can make the woman feel worse and the symptoms may be more severe as well.
Not only that, the compromised immune system also means that the complications that arise out of flu, such pneumonia and other life threatening conditions requiring hospitalization and treatment.
Then there is the fact that the body is under greater stress during pregnancy: it needs more oxygen, the heart is working harder, and the lungs are working hard within a smaller, cramped space because an expanding belly puts more pressure on them. This physical stress makes it even more likely that a woman catches flu and that the symptoms are more severe.
The symptoms of flu during pregnancy
The symptoms of pregnancy flu are more or less the same as other instances of flu: there could be fever, chills, sore throat, cough, body aches and pain, runny or stuffy nose, headaches, and feelings of weakness and tiredness. But the woman may well find that her flu symptoms are more severe or troublesome now that she is pregnant, than any previous experience of the flu.
Flu treatment during pregnancy
The CDC recommends that two anti flu drugs, Oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and Zanamivir (Relenza) are suitable for women to use though they should be taken in consultation with the doctor after gauging suitability. Other than these it is mostly symptom reducing medications that are used to keep the symptoms in control, which also should be cleared with the doctor (because many are unsuitable for use in pregnancy).
Any worsening symptoms, shortness of breath, fainting or dizziness, severe vomiting, confusion, any severe pain should be reported promptly.
Prevention of flu during pregnancy is a key to avoiding the discomfort and possible complications of the flu. The flu vaccine is therefore recommended to be taken during pregnancy. It is safe to take at any time during pregnancy, though the kinds of vaccines with live virus are unsuitable for use in pregnancy.