Pregnancy H1N1 Flu Facts
- Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women - H1N1 Flu Virus - Government of Canada, Public Health Agency of Ca
Here is some information that pregnant and breastfeeding women can use to stay informed and prepared.
Safeguards and precautions to avoid H1N1 flu complications during pregnancy
Pregnant women might be more prone to H1N1 infection due to an already weakened immune system, however of more concern is a higher risk of developing serious complications such as pneumonia and respiratory distress if they fall victim to H1N1.
This new pandemic influenza strain, first emerging in April 2009, was shown to affect not only seniors and children as is the case with seasonal flu, but also became prevalent in young, healthy adults. Of primary concern is the threat it poses to pregnant women in their second or third trimester and first time moms that are within four weeks of giving birth.
H1N1 is an airborne virus, meaning it is transferred from person to person via droplets released in the air after an infected person coughs or sneezes. This allows the virus to enter the body by way of the mouth, nose and/or throat. It was discovered, after extensive testing, that the H1N1 virus is a different breed combining genes from avian, swine and human flu strains.
Most Common vs Serious Symptoms of Seasonal and H1N1 Influenza
Both H1N1 and seasonal viruses share alike symptoms. Early symptoms, in either case, may include a low fever and cough followed by some or all commonly associated signs like fatigue, sore throat, muscle aches, head aches and a runny nose.
More serious symptoms may include breathing difficulty or an uncommon shortness of breath (some pregnant women experience shortness of breath during weeks 22 to 26), chest pain, severe or persistent vomiting, sudden bouts of dizziness or disorientation, a fever of 39 degrees C or higher, severe abdominal pain and low blood pressure.
Recommendations for pregnant and breastfeeding women
Pregnant women who contract H1N1may be faced with the unfortunate possibility of experiencing severe symptoms that could require hospitalization, result in early delivery or, in an extreme scenario, miscarriage.
Health authorities are recommending pregnant women be vaccinated not only for H1N1, but seasonal flu as well. It is being strongly advised that they discuss options with their health care providers in order to make a decision regarding what is best for mom and baby.
It is also suggested that women who are breastfeeding receive the adjuvanted H1N1 flu shot to protect the health of both mother and infant.
The two types of vaccine available
Unadjuvanted and adjuvanted are the two types of H1N1 flu vaccines available.
Included in an adjuvanted vaccine is a substance that boosts the immune system thereby increasing the individual’s response to the vaccine. The unadjuvanted vaccine does not provide a supplementary or booster element. Adjuvanted vaccines are not new and are included in common vaccines such as hepatitis B and tetanus
Most Health Authorities are recommending pregnant women receive the unadjuvanted vaccine if the flu virus is not yet prevalent in their community, due to the fact that there is more safety data currently available. If the vaccine is not available and H1N1 occurs in their community women who are more than 20 weeks pregnant should talk with their doctors regarding getting the adjuvanted vaccine. It is generally known that with seasonal flu the fetus is protected against the virus in the womb. With H1N1being a new strain of influenza there is not presently sufficient data to determine whether or not the virus is able to cross the placenta.
What to do if you’re pregnant and you develop flu symptoms
If you suspect you have any symptoms of flu contact your health care provider immediately and do not accept a diagnosis of ‘there’s nothing to worry about, it’s just a mild case of the flu’. Pregnant women should be proactive when it comes to the health of themselves and the health of their unborn child.
Precautionary measures to guard against infection
Due to the fact that H1N1 germs are airborne they can reside on any hard surface. They are likely to be present on doorknobs and counters, for example, where they can be picked up on hands. By simply touching the face the virus is allowed to be transferred to the respiratory system. Public areas such as malls, supermarkets, public transit and walk-in-clinics are all breeding grounds for flu virus germs. If you have children attending school, germs are rampant in this environment so educate your kids on how to avoid, as much as is possible, being a carrier for the virus.
Life can’t come to a standstill because of flu season, and coming in contact with objects when out in public is unavoidable. Normal routines should continue as usual, but precautionary measures can be taken to lessen the transfer of germs, thus hopefully avoiding coming down with the flu.
- Avoid touching your face or your child’s face without washing/disinfecting your hands first and vice versa.
- Carry alcohol based wipes, in a pocket or purse, to clean handles of shopping carts, water taps and doorknobs prior to touching them.
- Thorough and frequent washing of hands with anti-bacterial soap, and the use of an alcohol based hand sanitizer (with a content of between 60 to 70 percent alcohol), when washing hands is not possible, can effectively remove viral germs from hands.
- Always wash your hands before breastfeeding, preparing food, taking and/or giving medications or removing/inserting contact lenses. Always wipe your hands with a clean towel or paper towel and replace and/or wash hand towels and facecloths daily.
- Wash your hands immediately after preparing food, using the toilet, changing a diaper, blowing your nose or your child’s and either taking care of or being in the near vicinity of an infected person.
- Avoid setting purses, diaper bags and backpacks down on floors in any public area. Do not place any of the aforementioned items on countertops, desks, beds or any other places in the house that germs could be transferred to. Floors are one of the worst breeding grounds for unwanted germs. Make sure to wipe down, preferably wash where possible, backpacks and bags frequently.
- Sneeze or cough into your sleeve instead of your hand and strongly encourage children to follow suit, as this will prevent germs from spreading.
- Disinfect all hard, common surfaces at home including doorknobs, counters, floors, countertops and baby changing area.
Be consistent with good habits during flu season. Encourage children and family members to follow your example. Eat healthy, drink lots of water, take prenatal vitamins and make sure other household members take theirs. Get enough exercise, rest and enjoy the outdoors whenever possible. Mostly, don’t become paranoid and stay in all winter because of a possibility of coming down with the flu. Odds are in your favour that you may not come down with it, too!
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