Swine flu, the disease that has reached pandemic proportions, holds everyone at risk today. Some of those more prone to its risk are pregnant women. When it is contracted during pregnancy, it poses a greater risk for women and this deserves special attention. Such a pregnancy can be life-threatening for both the mother and the baby.
A study on swine flu and pregnancy, by the famous medical journal Lancet, concluded that the risks of complications indeed increase,for all those that contract the disease during pregnancy. This poses a higher death risk for both the mother and child. In fact, a recent statistical analysis claimed, that one in every eight people who died of this flu was a pregnant lady.
The World Health Organization (WHO) claims that pregnant women who contract this flu are in danger of developing complications, that may lead to miscarriages or premature labor. Bloomberg has reported 6 deaths of those who contracted this fever while pregnant, between April 15th and June 16th (2009). This accounts for 13% of the total 45 fatalities during that period. The H1N1 pandemic has affected one and all (has killed over 800 people worldwide).
Symptoms and Effects
Pregnant women are not at any greater risk of catching the flu virus than others, but what causes the fatalities is that it increases the risk of external complications. What makes the situation worse is that the patient’s conditions deteriorate really fast. Further more, it paves an easier way for a viral pneumonia, other acute respiratory disorders, and breathing distress that may even require mechanical ventilation.
Though the reasons for the high risks are speculative, a majority of experts tend towards one reason. A woman experiences many changes in her immunological resilience during pregnancy. This is a biological bodily change that suppresses the mother’s immune system, to ensure that the mother’s body does not start fighting the fetus, considering it as a foreign invader. The most obvious side effect of the fetus protection mechanism is the mother’s weak defense against certain viruses.
The pregnant woman experiences innumerable changes in her lung functioning in the second and third trimesters of her pregnancy period. An enlarged womb leaves little room for the expansion of the lungs, and restricts coughing capacity. The lungs feel constricted, and its slacked functioning impairs its natural ability to deal with airborne flu viruses. Most pregnant women experience breathing difficulties during pregnancy, but a swine flu pregnancy just makes it critically worse.
The pregnancy risks include the risk of pneumonia. It also increases the risks of dehydration due to diarrhea and vomiting. The problem with both, is the risk of uterus contraction that causes the mother to go into preterm labor. The baby is always safe till it is in the mother’s womb (God decrees it to be safest place in the world), but a premature delivery takes away this natural protection. Some to-be mothers need IV fluids during flu, just to avoid a dehydration induces preterm delivery.
It heightens the normal flu-related health problems, like chills, headaches, coughs, and fevers. The already uncomfortable duration of pregnancy becomes absolute hell by the mixture of swine flu and pregnancy. One must remember, however, that for a mother, it is the child that is priority one. So do not miss the antenatal appointments that monitor the child’s development even if you have this virus.
Most of the prescribed medication is most effective when it is taken within 48 hours of observing the first symptom. So get your real-time RT-PCR test or a viral culture test on a respiratory specimen done immediately, and await the results with hope, for the following antivirals can be taken as medication.
Antivirals do not cure the condition, they just reduce the intensity of their symptoms. Most medications that are prescribed during pregnancy are ‘pregnancy class C medications’. This means that they do not have adequate human data on them to prove that there are no serious side effects, and that the medication is safe for both mother and baby.
Relenza Antiviral Medication – Glaxosmithkline Plc
Relenza comes in a powder form that is usually inhaled using disc-shaped inhalers. It is recommended in the UK and is popular worldwide, especially when treating a swine flu pregnancy. As it is a direct inhalation treatment, it easily reaches the throat and lungs without using the medium of blood. This means that there is no reason for the baby to be affected by it in any way, as it does not reach a significant blood content level that might be considered harmful for the fetus or placenta. Though relenza is safe during pregnancy, it is not recommended for people with asthma or COPD.
Tamiflu in Pregnancy
Taking Tamiflu in pregnancy is the recommended treatment by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Though it is the world’s best-selling flu medication, it is to be understood by patients that it is absorbed by the body through blood. Tamiflu in pregnancy is administered with the knowledge that the medication will definitely reach the fetus. The few studies that have been done on it, conclude that the fetus development is not hampered. However, these studies have been done on really small samples, and may not reflect the correct conclusion.
When the symptoms appear in pregnant women, they can be prescribed with Acetaminophen, but not Ibuprofen or Aspirin. Pregnant women can also take any Paracetamol based cold remedies to reduce flu symptoms like fever, as it is completely safe for both – the mother and the baby. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (Ibuprofen) are an absolute no-no during pregnancy, with or without the flu symptoms. Vaccines like Oseltamivir (tamiflu) or Zanamivir (relenza) have shown no adverse side effects during pregnancy, while Amantadine and Rimantadine should only be taken as last resorts when the potential benefits far outweigh the potential risk borne.
Take care of yourself. Rest well, sleep, and eat well. Take all necessary precautions, like avoiding unnecessary travel, maintaining personal hygiene, and covering your mouth while coughing and sneezing. Swine flu and pregnancy together cannot harm you or your child if your will and love are strong enough to fight the deadly virus, but it is always more effective to not contract it in the first place. Wish you a healthy baby, far away from any virus.
Disclaimer: This HerHaleness article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.