Pregnancy & flu
Pregnant women can become quite sick with flu (influenza virus) and are at an increased risk of complications. During flu season it is best to take precautions to protect yourself and your unborn baby.
After you have been infected with the flu virus, you will usually start feeling the symptoms between one and three days later. Symptoms can include:
- sore throat
- muscle aches
- severe tiredness
- loss of appetite.
Ways to avoid flu
- Regular hand washing with soap and water, especially before meals. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth as the flu virus can spread that way.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in a bin after you use it and clean your hands. Coughing or sneezing into your elbow reduces hand contamination.
- If you have flu, avoid public places and close contact with others, especially children and pregnant women.
It is important that your family also take the same precautions.
The flu virus changes frequently and so the vaccine has to be updated every year. Yearly flu vaccination is the best way to protect yourself and your baby against flu. Flu vaccination during pregnancy is also highly effective in protecting babies against flu in the first six months of life.
Flu vaccination is recommended for pregnant women. The vaccine can be given at any stage of your pregnancy and will protect you from the common flu viruses. The flu vaccine is free for pregnant women and available from your General Practitioner (GP).
You cannot catch the flu from the vaccine; however, some people may experience the following mild side effects that can be treated with paracetamol:
- pain, redness and swelling at the injection site
- low grade temperature
- muscle aches
- drowsiness or fever
- allergic reaction (rare).
If you have flu-like symptoms
If you develop flu-like symptoms your GP can assess you to make sure that you and your baby are otherwise well.
If your GP suspects that you have the flu they may prescribe antiviral medications (such as Relenza or Tamiflu). These should be commenced in the first two days of the illness to have the greatest benefit.
GPs do not routinely test everyone with flu-like symptoms. However, because you are pregnant your doctor may decide to test you for the virus by collecting a nose and throat swab. Women who are near term (more than 38 weeks gestation) or those with pregnancy complications may need to be admitted to hospital.
If you are concerned about your health or the health of your baby contact your GP or local hospital for advice or to make an appointment.
If I have flu-like symptoms should I attend my hospital appointments?
If you have cold or flu-like symptoms, it is recommended you go to your GP for a consultation prior to your pregnancy appointment.
If you have the flu or flu-like symptoms and you have an appointment at the Royal Women’s Hospital, contact the hospital on (03) 8345 2000 before you come. Unless there are medical reasons as to why you must come to the hospital, it may be more appropriate to make another appointment at a later date.
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The Women’s does not accept any liability to any person for the information or advice (or use of such information or advice) which is provided on the Website or incorporated into it by reference. The Women’s provide this information on the understanding that all persons accessing it take responsibility for assessing its relevance and accuracy. Women are encouraged to discuss their health needs with a health practitioner. If you have concerns about your health, you should seek advice from your health care provider or if you require urgent care you should go to the nearest Emergency Dept.