The flu, your baby and you

The flu, your baby and you

When you’re pregnant there are a lot of things for you to be aware of so you and bub can stay safe and healthy. One of these things is the flu, which is particularly common at this time of the year.

Isn’t the flu just the same as a cold?

The flu, or influenza, is a viral infection spread during coughing and sneezing. A lot of people think the flu and a cold are the same thing, but the flu can be much more serious than a common cold.

How do I tell if I tell the difference between the flu and a common cold?

Telling the difference between the flu and a common cold can be tricky. Generally, the flu is more severe than a cold. It is also likely to cause high or prolonged fevers and more muscle aches than you would expect with a common cold.

Flu symptoms can include a fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, coughing and sneezing and often develop more suddenly than a cold.

People with a cold tend to experience a runny or stuffy nose, may have a headache and feel generally unwell, but the symptoms aren’t as severe as the flu.

It can be very difficult to tell the difference. If you aren’t sure if you have the flu your doctor or health care provider can take a swab from your nose to clarify the diagnosis.

Why should I be worried about it?

If you contract the flu you are more likely to end up out of action for a few days (at home in bed) than if you have a cold.

From a health perspective, in some cases the flu can lead to complications such as bronchitis, pneumonia and heart problems. These may result in hospitalisation, admission to intensive care and in extreme cases it may be fatal.

As a mum to be you have a higher risk of developing severe disease or complications after contracting the flu. Even if you are fit and healthy, changes in your immune system as well as heart and lung function during pregnancy can make you more likely to become seriously unwell from the flu.

Prevention is always better than cure, and this is especially true when it comes to the flu. The single most effective way of preventing the flu is to be vaccinated.

Can I safely be vaccinated against flu while pregnant?

The flu vaccine is safe for pregnant women throughout their entire pregnancy. Vaccinating during pregnancy doesn’t only protect you; it can also help to protect your baby for the first six months of their life. Babies under the age of six months are not able to be vaccinated against the flu but are more likely to be hospitalised if they contract it. Any protection they can get from you is beneficial.
As well as getting the flu jab, we recommend you :

  • avoid close contact with someone who has the flu (if possible)
  • practice good hand hygiene, and always clean your hands after being in contact with someone who has the flu
  • encourage those around you with the flu to cover their mouths when coughing or sneezing
  • avoid large crowds and events (if possible)

What should I do if I contract the flu?

If you do contract the flu while pregnant speak to your GP as soon as possible.

As we mentioned above pregnant women are more likely to experience serious complications with the flu. If you do have the flu, or flu symptoms, it may be recommended that you be treated with antiviral medicine. These are most effective when commenced early, ideally within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms.

If you feel unwell and have a fever, it is safe to take paracetamol—but please follow all directions as outlined on packaging. General recommendations are to rest, keep warm and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.

If you are a Mater Mum-to-be and have flu-like symptoms and need to come to hospital (either for concerns about your pregnancy or because of the flu symptoms), please phone our Pregnancy Assessment Centre on 07 3163 7000 before you come in. You may be asked to wear a mask or be moved to a single room to try and minimise the chances of exposing other patients, staff and visitors. 

Will my unborn baby be okay?

The chance of your baby contracting the flu during pregnancy is very low. Any adverse effects to the baby are generally due to the viral illness in Mum, such as severe respiratory illness or very high or prolonged fevers. There are also small increases in risks of miscarriage, stillbirth and preterm birth.
If you have any further questions speak to you doctor, midwife or obstetrician.

 

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