Page modified at: 02/01/2010
Are pregnant women more likely to catch swine flu?
Pregnant women are more susceptible to all infections, because their immune system is naturally suppressed in pregnancy.They are especially vulnerable to swine flu, as this virus is affecting younger age groups in particular. Are pregnant women with swine flu more at risk of complications?
During pregnancy, you may have an increased risk of complications from any type of flu, especially in the second and third trimester.
Most pregnant women with swine flu will only have mild symptoms, the same as most other people with swine flu. However, pregnant women have an increased risk of complications from any type of flu, because their immune system is naturally supressed in pregnancy. Possible complications are pneumonia (an infection of the lungs), difficulty breathing and dehydration, which are more likely to happen in the second and third trimester.
There is a small chance that these complications will lead to premature labour or miscarriage. There is not yet enough information to know precisely how likely these birth risks are.
What special precautions can pregnant women take?
If a family member or other close contact has swine flu, your doctor may prescribe you antiviral medication (usually Relenza) as a preventative (prophylactic) measure. Relenza is taken through an inhaler rather than a tablet. This means it builds up in your throat and lungs but not in your blood or placenta and should not affect your baby.
If you think that you may have swine flu, check your symptoms online. If you are still concerned, call your doctor for an assessment immediately. If your doctor confirms swine flu over the phone, you will be prescribed antiviral medication to take as soon as possible.
Unless you have swine flu symptoms, carry on attending your antenatal appointments so you can monitor the progress of your pregnancy.
Can I take antiviral drugs if I am pregnant?
Yes, on the advice of a doctor. The Department of Health has purchased Relenza, an inhaled antiviral drug that treats flu without reaching the developing fetus. It is unlikely that Relenza will affect your pregnancy or your growing baby.
However, if your doctor or midwife thinks that a different medicine is needed (for instance, if you have unusually severe flu), you will be given Tamiflu instead.
An expert group reviewed the risk of antiviral treatment in pregnancy, which is extremely small - much smaller than the risk posed by the symptoms of swine flu What are the possible side effects of Relenza?
If you take an antiviral and have side effects, see your healthcare professional to check that you are ok. Then report your suspected drug reaction to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).] Can I take flu remedies or painkillers if I am pregnant?
You can take paracetamol to reduce fever and other symptoms.
Paracetamol is safe to take in pregnancy.
However, pregnant women should not take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (Nurofen). Will pregnant women get preference for a swine flu vaccine?
Pregnant women are second priority for the swine flu vaccine. See Who will be a priority for vaccination with the H1N1 swine flu vaccine?
The European Medicines Agency has said Pandemrix and Celvapan can be given to pregnant women. Pregnant women are recommended to have the swine flu vaccine because they are at greater risk of being seriously ill with swine flu. They also have a higher risk of needing to go to hospital if they catch swine flu.
These risks increase during the later stages of pregnancy. If you are about to give birth and there are a lot of cases of swine flu locally, having the swine flu vaccine could help you avoid catching swine flu and then passing it to your baby.
The Pandemrix vaccine can be given in one dose rather than two spread over three weeks and therefore be more attractive to women in the later stage of pregnancy. Is the vaccine safe for pregnant women?
Yes. There is no evidence of risk from vaccinating pregnant women with inactivated vaccines, such as the swine flu vaccine. The government's swine flu vaccination programme is underpinned by independent expert advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation and the Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies. Will breastfeeding protect my baby from swine flu?
Breastfeeding does not appear to reduce the likelihood of babies getting cold or flu. However, it should help reduce the risk of associated complications, such as pneumonia and chest infections.