If you’re thinking, ‘Can you take Tamiflu while pregnant?’ the answer is yes. Tamiflu in pregnancy may be prescribed as a treatment for the flu. Women go through alterations in their cardiovascular, respiratory, and immune systems during pregnancy. Hence they are more prone to viruses such as the influenza virus, the causative agent of the flu (1).
Although adopting various preventive measures, such as administering vaccines, is considered the first line of defense, medications may be suggested for treatment. Scroll through to know about Tamiflu and its safety for pregnant women, including its side effects and some tips to help you avoid contracting the flu while pregnant.
What Is Tamiflu?
Tamiflu is the brand name for oseltamivir, a drug used for treatment and prophylaxis of flu caused by the influenza virus (2).
It belongs to the class of drugs called neuraminidase inhibitors, which block the enzyme that the virus spreads (3). It is available in two major forms, capsule and liquid (oral suspension).
Can You Take Tamiflu (Oseltamivir) When Pregnant?
The US FDA has approved Tamiflu for the treatment of influenza virus during pregnancy. However, this drug belongs to Pregnancy Category C, which means that there are no adequate and well-controlled studies in humans (4).
Tamiflu is prescribed if the potential benefits outweigh the risks. Therefore, you should take the drug only if your physician prescribes it.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends antiviral treatment to be started within 48 hours of diagnosis for pregnant women during any trimester (1).
What Could Be The Side Effects Of Tamiflu During Pregnancy?
The potential side effects of taking Tamiflu include diarrhea, stomach pain, nausea, and vomiting (5). These symptoms can be bothersome but will subside in a few days. Take medicine after you eat something, as it can upset the digestive system when taken on an empty stomach.
Serious side effects include allergic reactions with the following symptoms:
- Hives or rash
- Skin peeling and blisters
- Sores and blisters in the mouth
- Tightness and pain in the chest
- Difficulty talking
If you experience any of these symptoms, let your doctor know about it.
Tamiflu (oseltamivir) is unlikely to cause any adverse pregnancy or fetal outcomes. There is limited research on this aspect (6).
How Much Tamiflu Is Safe To Take During Pregnancy?
The recommended oral dosage is one 75mg capsule two times a day, for five days or as suggested by the doctor for treatment (7). Tamiflu 75mg once a day dose is given for prevention. Your doctor might adjust the dose based on the kidney function.
General Precautions To Follow While Taking Tamiflu
Though it is safe to take the prescribed dosage of Tamiflu, remember the following points to stay safe (8).
- Tamiflu is not a substitute for flu vaccination.
- It is not an antibiotic drug and thus cannot be used to treat bacterial infections.
- It should always be consumed along with food or after food.
- If you have already received the nasal flu vaccination, you should wait at least two weeks before taking this drug (9).
- Treating the flu virus at the nascent stages is crucial for high-risk individuals such as pregnant women, and people with underlying health issues (heart diseases, diabetes, and weakened immune systems) (10).
- You should let your doctor know if you have a history of any disease or illness.
Ways To Prevent A Flu Infection During Pregnancy
The complications of a flu infection during pregnancy can be serious. While antiviral drugs like Tamiflu work as the second line of defense, preventive measures are always the first line of defense.
Here are a few measures recommended by the CDC (11)
- Get a flu vaccination to protect both the mother and the baby from the flu (12).
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Wash your hands often to keep away from germs.
- Avoid touching your nose, eyes, or mouth if you feel your hands might be infected.
- Always clean and disinfect your surroundings, and boost your immunity by staying active and eating nutritious food.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Can Tamiflu cause congenital abnormalities?
Scientific studies have not found an association between fetal exposure to oseltamivir and congenital malformation (13).
2. Can the flu harm my baby when pregnant?
Yes, the flu may be harmful to your developing baby. The flu may be associated with an increased risk of neural tube defects and other adverse pregnancy outcomes such as miscarriage, pre-term birth, or low birth weight (10) (14).
3. Does Tamiflu cross the placenta?
Although Tamiflu is sometimes prescribed during pregnancy, research shows that it crosses the placenta and reaches your baby. According to a study in 2012, high levels of Tamiflu were detected in the umbilical cord of a pregnant woman who had received the drug (15).
4. How long will I remain contagious with the flu during pregnancy?
If you develop the flu during pregnancy, you may be contagious from one day before you see the symptoms to five or seven days after falling sick (16).
5. How long should I quarantine myself with the flu?
People having the flu should quarantine themselves for at least 24 hours until their fever is gone. Individuals who are confirmed with flu symptoms but no fever should remain at home for four to five days (17).
Tamiflu is a medication usually prescribed for flu caused by the influenza virus. But can you take Tamiflu while pregnant? The answer is yes if prescribed by a healthcare professional. However, before taking this medication, talk to your doctor about the dosage, potential side effects, and precautions. Though your symptoms could resolve after you begin the course of medication, you must not skip or discontinue using it unless your doctor says so. Nevertheless, you may follow preventive measures such as frequent handwashing, maintaining clean surroundings, and getting a flu shot to avoid flu infection during pregnancy.
2. Oseltamivir; MedlinePlus, US National Library of Medicine
3. Luciana L. Borio, Eric Toner, and John Bartlett; Overview of oseltamivir phosphate (Tamiflu®) and key points; Clinicians’ Bio security News; Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
4. Treatment of influenza during pregnancy; Information by Drug Class; US Food and Drug Administration
5. Oseltamivir; Michigan Medicine, University of Michigan
6. Vera Ehrenstein, et.al.; Oseltamivir in pregnancy and birth outcomes; NCBI(2018)
7. Pregnancy and the flu; University Of Florida Health
8. Summary of product characteristics; Global Health Press
9. Questions and answers: Antiviral drugs, 2009-2010 flu season; CDC
10. Flu And Pregnant Women; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
11. Healthy habits to help prevent flu; Prevent Flu, CDC
12. Pregnant women & influenza (flu); Who is at a Hight Risk for Flu Complications, CDC
13. Vera Ehrenstein et al.; Oseltamivir in pregnancy and birth outcomes; BioMed Central
14. Flu during pregnancy; University of Minnesota
15. Flu news scan; University of Minnesota
16. Flu While Pregnant; Cleveland Clinic
17. Stay home when you are sick; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention