Flu and Pregnancy Danger

Facing the flu season while pregnant can be a bit scary. But the truth is that while coming down with the flu doesn't often cause birth defects, pregnant women have a higher risk for influenza complications like pneumonia. Of course, the best way to be a healthy pregnant lady is to avoid the flu, altogether.

The keep from getting the flu, pregnant women should be vaccinated. The flu shot is your first line of protection against the flu virus. Research suggests that colds and flu viruses stick around 3 times longer in women who are pregnant.

Flu season can start in October and can last until the end of May. The best time to get the vaccination is in October or November, but if you've delayed, you can have a shot as late as December.

Flu-Like Symptoms

Because the flu vaccines don't contain live viruses, you can't get the flu from the shot. Some women may experience some flu-like symptoms such as muscle aches or fatigue as their immune systems react to the vaccine. The flu vaccine is also completely safe for lactating women. Neither you nor your nursing baby can get sick from the flu vaccine. But keep in mind that the shot takes two weeks to grant immunity.

If you are pregnant, there is one type of flu vaccine that is best to avoid. This is the FluMist vaccine. FluMist contains weakened viruses and has not yet been tested in pregnant women.

Many common cold and flu medications have not yet been evaluated for use in pregnancy. It's best not to use any over-the-counter products without talking to your doctor. Some medications are known hazards during pregnancy. These include:

Don't Take

*Antiviral drugs—This family of drugs includes Tamiflu, Flumadine, Relenza, and Symmetrel. These drugs carry a small risk for causing birth defects.

*Ibuprofen and Aspirin—Aspirin can cause bleeding and Ibuprofen has not been studied for its effects on pregnant women.

*Expectorants and cough suppressants containing guaifenesin or dextromethorphan—These are ingredients found in common cold and flu remedies and in cough syrups. In some cases, their effects on pregnant women have not been evaluated. In other cases, animal studies have shown the medications to cause complications.

Some medications are considered safe during pregnancy. Checks with your doctor first, but in most cases, doctors allow their pregnant patients to take these common over-the counter remedies:

Safe Bets

*Acetaminophen—for the muscle aches of colds and flu.

*Chlorpheniramine—as an antihistamine to dry up a runny nose.

*Pseudoephedrine—to relieve a stuffy nose. However, it's important not to use pseudoephedrine during the first trimester of pregnancy since there is some proof the drug may interfere with the development of the fetus' digestive system.

Home Remedies

Here are some natural homespun flu remedies that are safe during pregnancy:

*Lozenges containing sugar or honey can soothe coughs and colds

*Rest, rest, rest

*Drink lots of fluids but avoid caffeinated drinks

*Use a humidifier in your bedroom to help relieve your congestion

Get Help

Call your doctor if:

*It becomes difficult for you to breathe

*Your condition doesn't improve, or you become sicker after a few days

*You start to feel better, then develop significant symptoms

*You have persistent, severe nausea or vomiting

*Your fever is very high

*You have shaking and chills

*You develop chest pain or cough up thick sputum that is yellow or greenish

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