Worried your flu may affect your unborn baby? Read on.
I am currently six months pregnant with my second child. However, I recently suffered from a bout of the flu as well as a cough and diarrhoea. Will this affect my baby?
Minor ailments are common in pregnancy. The majority do not have long-term consequences for the mother or baby. However, they are often a source of anxiety.
Pregnant women are more susceptible to developing complications from influenza because of a suppressed immune system in pregnancy. The complications are rare and may include pneumonia and inflammation of the heart muscle. The virus may also rarely spread to the brain.
Therefore, all pregnant are advised to vaccinate against the flu virus. The vaccination is safe in pregnancy. The vaccination is not a live virus so it cannot multiply in the body and cause harm to the mother or the baby. It also offers protection to the newborn baby in the first six months of life.
Influenza, if contracted during pregnancy, may be associated
with pregnancy loss, premature labour and low birth weight,
although it is rare. In such instances, hospitalisation and prompt
treatment may be warranted. In the first trimester, having a high
fever may increase the risk for birth defects.
Diarrhoea in pregnancy may be a result of a gastrointestinal infection. Complications include dehydration, premature labour and foetal distress. If these complications occur, the pregnant women will need to be admitted. In the early part of pregnancy, it may possibly cause a miscarriage.
Most gastrointestinal infections are self-limiting. They typically only require rehydration with oral fluids or a drip.
Preventive measures include good food hygiene. This includes observing expiry dates; only defrosting frozen foods once before consumption, washing raw vegetables or fruits thoroughly, cooking all raw meats thoroughly, keeping raw and cooked food separately, and regular hand washing especially after using the restroom, gardening, handling pets, after preparing food and before eating.
Certain infections may directly cause harm to the developing baby. These are uncommon but potentially serious. If you have the flu or a gastrointestinal infection, it is recommended to consult a doctor early. This would facilitate early medical assessment and starting medications that are safe for pregnancy.
Question answered by:
Dr Nau’shil Randhawa
National University Hospital (NUH) Women’s Centre