The Flu and Pregnancy

What to do if you get the flu


The flu. It's hitting hard this year. Those who get it are getting it good; down for the count for a couple weeks with body aches, headaches, earaches, stomachaches, fever, cough...everything. This is what we call a total-system body rot. For those of you who are also pregnant, it just can't feel much worse. My hope is that you're pregnant with your first baby and don't have to chase down a toddler while you're sick as a dog.

Here's what the March of Dimes has to say about the flu:

Complications of flu, such as bacterial pneumonia and dehydration, can be serious and even fatal. Pregnancy can increase the risk of these and other complications. Pregnant women are more likely to be hospitalized from complications of the flu than non-pregnant women of the same age. Pregnancy can change a pregnant women's immune system and affect her heart and lungs. These changes can increase the risk for complications from the flu.

Call your health care provider if you think you have the flu. Get lots of rest, and drink a lot of nonalcoholic liquids. Do not use over-the-counter cold and flu medications, herbal products or dietary supplements without first talking to your health care provider. Not all over-the-counter medications are safe to take during pregnancy.

I got an email from a reader who's 12 weeks pregnant and has been sick for six days already with no relief in sight. She wants to know what medications she can take and if this will harm her baby. She didn't give her name so I'm going to address this to: y'all - for all of you who are in a similar predicament. So, y'all, call your doctor and tell him/her what you're dealing with. He/she should be keeping tabs on you, especially if you're having trouble keeping food and water down, have trouble breathing or if your fever is high. He/she can decide if you need any medication other than Tylenol (no ibuprofen, remember?). While "flu" generally doesn't cause vomiting and usually shows up as more of a respiratory sickness, pregnant women might throw up anyway. Y'all are good at that.

After you've called your doctor, drag yourself to the cupboard and grab a glass. Fill up a huge pitcher of water and go to bed. Sleep, sleep, sleep. When you wake up, have some water. Then, go back to sleep. Eat when you feel like it. You're going to feel horrible for at least a week, maybe two. You have a civic responsibility to call in sick to work. It's bad enough that you're sick and it would be a lot worse if you hauled your sick self and your flu bug into the office and started an epidemic.

Once you've resigned yourself to staying home and healing, call your Mom, sister or friend and ask them to leave a stack of DVDs on your porch along with some soup. Don't invite them inside for tea and sympathy. Flu is crazy contagious. If you have other children, keep an eye on them for symptoms and take them to the doctor (better yet, have your "always healthy" husband do it). Doctors can give some patients antiviral medication if they come to the office on the first days of the flu. This medication cuts down on the severity and length of the flu.

Will this damage your baby? It's not likely. Will it cause miscarriage? Probably not. Your body is hardwired to protect that baby, even to the point of putting your immune system second in line. Developing babies are strong, resilient and almost always do well, even when mom is sick. The trick however, is in encouraging your own body to get well with fluids, rest and time. Don't take any medications (not even herbal or over-the-counter) without talking it out with your doctor. The flu might not hurt your baby but the wrong medications could.

Get well y'all. Flu season usually comes to an end this month so if you haven't caught it, you probably won't. While it only infects between 5 and 20% of the population, it's a nasty virus and we're always glad to see it go. Next year, consider getting a flu vaccine.

For information on pregnancy and swine flu, check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for pregnancy and swine influenza.

Got a question for Jeanne? E-mail it to and it may be answered in a future blog post.

This Fit Pregnancy blog is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace medical advice from your physician. Before initiating any exercise program, diet or treatment provided by Fit Pregnancy, you should seek medical advice from your primary caregiver.<br>