Flu During Pregnancy: Signs, Risks, Treatment & Prevention Tips

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It is not uncommon to experience illnesses during pregnancy, including flu when pregnant. Flu during pregnancy is not just restricted to causing a runny nose or a sore throat in the mother but may also affect the fetus. Influenza or flu is a serious viral infection. If you catch the flu during pregnancy or immediately after the delivery, you must consult a doctor soon (1).

This post tells you about the consequences, preventive measures, and management of flu during pregnancy.

How Can Flu Be Harmful To Your Pregnancy?

Pregnancy causes some changes in the immune system, heart, and lungs. Flu in pregnant women can cause complications, such as bronchitis and pneumonia, leading to hospitalization. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pregnant women are more likely to have a severe illness from flu infection than other women of reproductive age who are not pregnant.

Flu infection could also cause harm to the developing baby. It may increase the risk of premature birth or low birth weight (2). High fever and severe flu infection may increase the risk of fatal effects, such as neural tube defects or stillbirth (3).

What Are The Symptoms Of Flu In Pregnancy?

The following are the symptoms of flu. They are the same in both pregnant women and other people, including non-pregnant women (4).

  • Headache
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Sore throat
  • Tiredness
  • Breathlessness
  • Cough
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever with or without chills

What Is The Treatment Of Flu During Pregnancy?

It is recommended that the treatment of pregnant women with flu should be started as soon as they develop flu-like symptoms. For most pregnant women, testing is not needed, and treatment can be started without waiting for tests or results.

Administrating antivirals within the first 48 hours after the symptoms develop can help in getting better results. However, antivirals can be administered after this time period as well. Antivirals make the flu symptoms milder and help prevent serious complications, such as pneumonia, which may arise from the infection (1)(5).

Are There Safe Medications For Flu During Pregnancy?

The US government has approved the use of the following three antiviral medications to treat flu in pregnant women or mothers who have recently delivered their babies (1)(6). Your doctor might prescribe them based on the necessity of medicines for your condition.

  1. Oseltamivir
  • Brand name: Tamiflu
  • Dosage: 75mg orally twice a day for five days
  • This drug is available both as a capsule and a liquid
  1. Zanamivir
  • Brand name: Relenza
  • Dosage: Two 5mg inhalations twice a day for five days
  • It is available in powder form and has to be inhaled by mouth
  • It is not recommended for women with asthma
  1. Peramivir
  • Brand name: Rapivab
  • Dosage: One 600mg dose by intravenous injection for 15-30 minutes
  • The medicine is only delivered intravenously through a needle

Do not take any medicines without consulting the doctor if you are a pregnant or nursing woman. If you develop fever, ask your healthcare provider if you can take acetaminophen. Small, frequent meals, ample rest, and plenty of fluids can help you feel better.

How To Prevent Flu In Pregnancy?

Getting a flu shot is the most effective way to protect yourself from a flu infection. Vaccination has been proven to be effective against the risk of flu-associated acute respiratory infection in pregnant women by up to half. Babies of vaccinated mothers are born with immunity that would last for a few weeks against flu.

September and October are the best months to get yourself vaccinated, however, doctors might also consider early vaccination for women who are already in their third trimester of pregnancy (3).

Is It Safe To Get A Flu Shot During Pregnancy?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the flu shot has an excellent safety record in over a million pregnant women who are administered the flu shot over several years (3). For most pregnant women, it is safe to get a flu shot during pregnancy. Inform your doctor if you are severely allergic to anything or have a history of allergic reaction to a flu shot.

Some flu shots contain compounds extracted from eggs. While most people with egg allergies can safely take the flu shot, discuss with your doctor about the safety of flu shot for you if you are severely allergic to eggs. You may consider having the shot administered in a hospital setting and under supervision so that you can receive emergency care in case of an adverse reaction (1).

How To Stop The Flu From Spreading?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend the following steps to prevent flu from spreading (7).

  • Avoid close contact with sick people.
  • If you are sick, stay indoors to protect others from getting the infection.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or a mask when you sneeze or cough. After using, discard the tissue immediately in a covered bin.
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth to prevent germs from spreading.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces that come in contact frequently and might be contaminated by the flu virus.
  • It is recommended to stay indoors 24 hours after the fever has subsided without taking medicines to get rid of the fever.

The yearly flu vaccine is the most effective and important step in preventing flu from spreading.

When To See The Doctor?

Contact your healthcare professional if you notice one or more of the following symptoms (4).

  • Shortness of breath
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Severe or constant vomiting
  • High fever (above 102°F)
  • Low-grade fever that does not reduce in 24 hours even after taking fever medications.

Flu during pregnancy isn’t uncommon. However, it needs prompt treatment to avert adverse effects on the developing fetus. A doctor will prescribe you pregnancy-safe flu medications to treat the infections with minimum or no side effects. Flu vaccination during pregnancy is the safest and most effective way to prevent flu infection in pregnant women and their babies. Avoiding close contact with affected people and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces are simple ways to prevent infection spread. Contact your healthcare provider immediately if you experience high or low-grade fever, dizziness, or severe and persistent vomiting.

Key Pointers

  • Pregnant women are more prone to severe illness from flu infection.
  • Cough, lethargy, headache, runny nose, and other flu symptoms affect everyone, including pregnant women.
  • For most pregnant women, taking antivirals within 48 hours of noticing symptoms may help improve the condition.


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Dr. Shashwat Jani

Dr. Shashwat Jani is a consultant obstetrician & gynecologist in Smt. N.H.L. Municipal Medical College, Ahmedabad. His field of interests are High Risk Pregnancy, Infertility and Endoscopy. He has written 12 chapters in reference books of Ob/Gyn and published 18 articles in Index journals. Dr. Jani has been invited as faculty in more than 200 national and international conferences. He... more

Dr. Ritika Shah

Dr. Ritika Shah is a dental surgeon with more than seven years of clinical experience across various cities in India. During her clinical practice, pediatric dentistry was her particular area of interest, and she constantly thrived to inculcate the latest advancements in the field of dentistry into her practice. She also holds a certificate in lactation counselling from iNational Health... more