Flu During Pregnancy

Why it is important to avoid the flu while pregnant

Aching muscles, chills, fatigue and loss of appetite are the calling cards of the flu, and they can be tough to handle at the best of times. While most people can overcome the virus in a week or two, a body that has adapted to the demands of pregnancy may not bounce back so quickly. Illness in pregnancy is a serious matter, but viral illness can be particularly threatening. When you learn how the flu affects a pregnant body and why, you will understand why it's so important to avoid it. If you do come down with the flu, find out how to keep it under control with good self-care and until it runs its course.

The Effects of Influenza during Pregnancy

Your immune system changes during pregnancy, dividing its attention between your body and your baby to keep you both as healthy as possible. While your defenses against invasive bacteria grow stronger, your resistance to viruses is quite a bit lower, which means that it's easier to become infected with the flu during pregnancy, and when you do, it's likely to be more severe than it would be for others.

Aches, fever, fatigue and weakness can become severe in a short time and could even lead to serious infections like pneumonia. There's also a good chance that your fever will climb higher than it typically would, and this overheating can lead to neural tube defects in your unborn baby. For these reasons, the majority of medical experts insist that everyone should get the flu shot during pregnancy.

How to Handle Flu and Pregnancy Symptoms

When an average person comes down with the flu, they can feel under the weather for weeks; when a pregnant woman comes down with the flu, those aches combine with her pregnancy discomforts to make life particularly miserable. And to add insult to injury, only a fraction of flu medications you'll find at a pharmacy are actually safe to use in pregnancy -- many are believed to increase the risk of birth defects.

Although you'll need to avoid most antihistamines and specialized flu remedies, which could harm the fetus, there are alternatives that could bring relief without risky side effects. The first step to beating the flu while pregnant is rest: go to bed at the first sign of flu symptoms if you can, or at least slow down and take frequent rests through the day. And although your appetite is probably at its lowest, be sure to stick to your healthy pregnancy diet for your own health and the health of your baby. Include plenty of fluids -- more than you would typically drink-- to replace the fluids your body is rapidly losing.

Treat specific symptoms in the most natural way you can. Use a humidifier to clear your nasal passages, gargle with warm salt water to ease a sore throat and take frequent cool baths to bring down a fever. If pain and fever become very hard to handle, you can take acetaminophen to help with both symptoms -- studies have shown that it won't negatively affect your unborn child.