Influenza during pregnancy

Apr 14, 2012 , Michelle Jakubíčková

chripka-v-tehotenstvi.jpg - kopie
chripka-v-tehotenstvi.jpg - kopie
Your family physician should be notified, if you are suffering from influenza during pregnancy because it is necessary to keep a close eye on pregnant pacients with the flu. The main concern is due to the possiblity of the illness harming the fetus. Pregnant women with influenza should also be aware that side effects of some medications and a high fever can harm their unborn child. This is why it is always better to seek out a doctor, to ensure that you are fully informed. This will decrease the possible risks of influenza to the fetus.

Influenza during pregnancy

Influenza is a highly contagious viral illness of the respiratory tract. It is one of the most common illnesses that effects the general public every year or even multiple times a year. For this reason, pregnant women will often come into contact with influenza. It is important not the panic a seek out your family physician who will prescribe medication based on the severity of the illness. Symptoms during pregnancy in no way differ from the symptoms of influenza in nonpregnant patients. These include high fever, cough, tiredness or even exhastion, muscle weakness and sore joints.

The influenza virus

Influenza is caused by a virus. Viruses are small infectious agents that exist on the boundary between the living and nonliving.  In order to survive they must infect a cell and utilize its structures to replicate and thus increase in number. Outside the cell, a virus is simply a nonliving agent that is unable to grow, replicate or produce basic molecules like, for example, proteins. What is characteristic of the influenza virus is its ability to spread rapidly and, more importantly, its seasonal epidemics.

Symptoms of influenza during pregnancy

Pregnant women tend to have flu symptoms of longer duration than the general public. This is primarily in regards to nasal congestion (stuffy nose), which is caused by swelling of the nasal mucosa.  During pregnancy, though, it is not recommended to use medications that can decrease the swelling of the nasal mucosa or suppress the infection.  In general, bed rest is recommended for pregnant women since influenza is a strain on the mother as well as on the fetus.  If you feel it is necessary to suppress your flu symptoms with over-the-counter medications, first contact your family physician, to ensure the suitability of the medication.

Complications of influenza during pregnancy

The worst complication of influenza is a high fever. This is because a regulated body temperature plays an important role in the proper development of the fetus.  In case of a high fever, it is important to use cold compresses or medications that will decrease your body temperature (in consultation with your physician). During the first few months of pregnancy, severe cases of influenza may harm the fetus, for example, an impairment in the development of the central nervous system, cleft lip, or malformation of the limbs.  These complications are very rare.

Treatment of influenza during pregnancy

The most common symptoms of the flu are fever, nasal congestion (stuffy nose), cough, headache, and sore muscles and joints. All of these symptoms are tolerable, for the general public as well as for pregnant women. Although, if these symptoms become intolerable or with their longer duration endanger mother or fetus, it is necessary to consult a doctor and find safe medications.

Treatment of fever

Paracetamol (Panadol) is the most commonly used medication to decrease fever. Paracetamol is safe for pregnant women. Although, during pregnancy a smaller dose is used over a short time period.  Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDS), such as ibuprofen and acylpyrin, are not recommended for pregnant women in the third trimester of their pregnancy. Medications for suppression of coughs, nasal congestion (stuffy nose) and pain are not recommended for the entire pregnancy.

Treatment of nasal congestion (stuffy nose)

Treatment of nasal congestion is directed at clearing the respiratory tract, with the help of drops and sprays. Commonly used medications are Nasivin, Olynth and Sanorin. For nasal rinses, you can use sprays with sea or mineral water. If the infection is caused by bacteria and affects the sinuses as well, antibiotic treatment is required.

Cough treatment

The choice of cough suppression medication depends on your family physician, who will decide on the proper medication depending on your type of cough (dry, non-productive or productive with coughing up of mucus).  There are a wide variety of cough suppressants and many cannot be taken during the third trimester or for the duration of the pregnancy.

Precautions during active influenza

It is inadvisable to underestimate influenza during pregnancy.  The most important thing is to increase consumption of liquids, such as water, tea and also juice, due to its high content of vitamins and minerals.  During pregnancy, it is necessary to be careful with ingestion of vitamin supplements, especially vitamin C.  The daily dose of vitamin C for pregnant women should not exceed 500 mg.  It is not recommended to take dissolvable vitamins because they can cause stomache problems.  If there is increased pressure in the sinuses, the best treatment is to apply a warm compress to the cheek bones, the forehead and under the eyes.  It is important to rest and not overwork your body.  Also, you should measure your temperture daily; if it increases over 38 ºC, contact your physician.

The influenza vaccine

Pregnant women considering the influenza vaccine, need not be scared that harm could come to their unborn child.  The vaccination acts positively on both the pregnant recipient of the vaccine and the fetus.  Researchers have discovered that the child of a vaccinated mother is protected against the flu for up to 6 months after birth.  This does not mean that every pregnant women should consider vaccination; this depends on many factors. If you have decided to get vaccinated, it is necessary to discuss it with your physician.

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