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Swine Flu Advice for Pregnant Women

The government has re-issued medical advice for expectant mothers and small children as swine flu continues to claim lives in the UK

Posted: 20 July 2009
by Laura Lee Davies

As the swine flu pandemic continues to take hold in the UK, the government have opted to re-issue best medical advice to those groups which are currently identified as most at risk from suffering badly or even dying from the illness. Much of the advice still stands from when we first reported about swine flu in pregnancy in the spring, but due to the recent cases where pregnant women have died of swine flu, after giving birth, it is worth reviewing the current advice. The NHS is also widening its facilities for advice and treatment of people coming to them worried about or showing symptoms of swine flu.

Renewed UK advice on swine flu
The Department for Health has information on its website that is useful for the whole family to read, but is of particular interest to those groups currently deemed to be most 'at risk', which include children under five years of age, and women in the late stages of pregnancy. To read this advice, go to

Swine flu risk in pregnancy
Most people who have caught swine flu so far have only suffered mild flu-like smptoms and been able to cope with the illness with over the counter medication and rest at home. However, some of those who have developed serious complications (linked to respiratory problems, for example) have died.
In pregnancy, like the rest of the population, if you do contract swine flu you will most likely only experience the mild symptoms and be laid low for a few days. However, the risk is with any case, that more serious complications can develop.
During pregnancy your immune system is slightly surpressed (so that you do not have an excessive immune reaction to the baby you are carrying), however the main danger is not that you are more likely to catch swine flu than another person, but that you might get more ill than someone else would. That does not automatically mean you would get dangerous complications but that you might experience a heavier dose of the flu's symptoms than another person of your age might. This seems to be especially true in the second and third trimesters.
If someone you have been in close contact with already has swine flu, talk to your doctor, who might prescribe a preventative medicine for you.

I'm pregnant and I think I've got swine flu, what now?
The symptoms of swine flu are usually similar to those of regular human seasonal flu: fever and a cough, tiredness, headache, aching muscles, runny nose, sore throat, nausea or diarrhoea.
Pregnant women who are diagosed with swine flu can be given an antiviral drug called Relenza. This is taken through an inhaler rather than a tablet which means it builds up in your throat and lungs rather than in your blood, therefore it should not affect your baby because the fetus is nourished via your blood and the placenta.
NOTE: Relenza, and another swine flu medication called Tamiflu, are safe to take if you are breastfeeding.
If you do think you have swine flu or it is confirmed, do not mix with other people to avoid further spread, but ask your partner or a friend to help get you medication and any food shopping you need.
In most cases the patient recovers within a week.

Conflicting advice on swine flu in pregnancy
Different pregnancy and medical bodies have been offering conflicting advice about what pregnant women should do. This can be a real worry for any woman expecting a baby.
Swine flu is not a two-week problem and hiding away is simply not practical for any woman, it is also not advisable as it can mean you are sitting at home, worrying and being less active, which can also be unhelpful in pregnancy. However, there are a few things which can help you:

  • If you need to travel on busy trains or buses, make sure you wash your hands with soap and hot water whenever you complete your journey (when you get to work and when you get home in the evening, for example). Avoid eating whilst on a train or bus until you have been able to wash your hands, and avoid touching your face until you have had a chance to wash your hands.
  • If possible, carry a small bottle of antibacterial lotion around with you – the kind you can buy in any chemist. This means you can clean your hands even when there isn't a bathroom handy.
  • As with any woman in pregnancy even without a problem like swine flu around, be wise about how you interact with crowds. You don't have to avoid parties or other big events per se, but take the option where possible to stick to seating areas rather than crowded standing sections. When you come away from a crowded area, wash your hands and face.
  • If you start to feel unwell, don't panic but contact your GP or midwife team as soon as you can. From later this week there will be additional local and on-call support via the NHS, but in the meantime make your own GP your main contact for advice.
  • Don't get too paranoid – if you are a healthy person most of the time, your body should still be equipped to fight anything it comes across. Continue to look after yourself as you should do anyway – eating well, not dashing about too much, and trying to be as generally fit and healthy as you can.

Mixed messages about trying for a baby
There have been reports that some bodies are suggesting women shouldn't try for a baby at the moment.
Bear in mind that swine flu isn't going to go away anytime soon. If you are a very wary person then it's your free choice, but bear in mind that there have been many other illnesses and wars around the world through the centuries, and life did go on. What woman has ever avoided pregnancy because she was scared of being in a road accident? And road accidents are pretty common.
If the problem gets intensely worse either here or abroad, there may be different advice at a later date, but don't let worry stop you from making a major life choice.

The NHS website has a page of useful information specifically for pregnant women:

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Discuss this story

Are you planning to have a baby and worried about swine flu? Or are you pregnant already? What do you think about the mixed messages we're getting right now?

Posted: 20/07/2009 at 11:41


I don't see the point in worrying too much about it. If you're going to catch it then you're going to catch it. I mean, fair enough, be prepared...get stocked up with paracetamol and things like that, but you should be taking precautions such as washing your hands before you eat and covering your nose and mouth when you cough and sneeze anyway. There's no complete way to protect yourself, unless you wrap yourself in a bubble and don't eat or drink or anything, so why worry about what you can't control?

I had a look at bbc news and on the one hand they were advising pregnant women and under 5s to stay away from crowds and then another lady (I think she was a health secretary or something) pointed out that pregnancy is not an illness and we shouldn't treat it as such. I think common sense is needed, avoid ill people and protect yourself, but don't put your life on hold!

I suppose I'm not too worried because I'm pretty sure we've both already had it, we were exposed to it in our local dr's surgery (before I got pregnant) and then got very ill a couple of days later and the symptoms matched. Recovered in about 4-5 days though, with just paracetamol and ibuprofen. My partner is very paranoid though for some reason and seems to find it irritating that I'm not worried.

Nikki (7+1) and Kamran (11 months)

Posted: 20/07/2009 at 15:46

Hiya, I'm really confused about this whole swine flu thing!
theres afew children in my area who have this swine flu (apparently) which is scary cos its so close! but theres lots of info on swine flu thats kinda useless, so ok we know that if we sneeze we need to sneeze into a tissue and bin it and wash our hands, but what if we dont have a tissue, what if someone sneezes on me? should i panic? should i drink bug spray? and bathe in bleach? its sooooooooooo confusing!! then being told on the local news that if your pregnant or have a young child or baby to stay indoors unless its absoloutly nessaccery to go outside? whaaaaaaaaaaaaaat the foo? why??? lol what if i do catch swine flu? my doctors already said if you have swine flu then dont go inside the building, the hospital also said dont go into the hospital if you have swine flu..but how the heck do we tell if its just a cold or swine flu?? nobody is telling us anything!! because we are not allowed to go anywere!! and people are really panicing about it, which is a worry cos nobody really understands wtf they are suppost to do apart from bin tissue and wash hands! it will be nice when its all over and i can walk around the supermarket without people being paranoid and saying everyone who sneezes will kill them lol its just ridiculous!


Posted: 20/07/2009 at 15:57

I'm entirely confuzzled. I use public transport to get to work and so called my midwifery team who told me to go in by car or stay at home. There have been pockets of cases in the area I work in. Ok, public transport is crowded but so are the local shops at the wrong time of day, how am I meant to survive without going shopping at all, and if I'm going shopping aren't I running the same risk as getting the train, in which case it's a bit pointless avoiding the train and making my life very awkward. The info in the article linked seems to suggest public transport is ok but to wash hands etc, but what about coughing and sneezing people, and airbourne germs??? I'm more concerned about the potential for problems with the baby and premature arrival that I read about somewhere than my own symptoms but from the info right now it's impossible to gauge how likely a problem is, assuming you catch it in the first place....

Posted: 20/07/2009 at 17:01

I am really worried after seeing recent news articles, but more so for my children - 16mth old daughter, and unborn baby - whom i will have to deliver early in 4 weeks time, due to Obstetric Cholestasis. I am also in a higher risk category as i already have other 'underlying health conditions'

What do i do if i get it? not go into hospital, or the maternity ward, where i am currently undergoing twice weekly monitoring??

I am scared to death for my daughter and my unborn baby, more so than myself as they will be so vulnerable, especially with all the hype/scare stories about how bad it is going to be this autumn and winter- what do we do- hole ourselves up inside the house? should we be stockpiling rations like in the WWars???

I hope it is all a big fuss over nothing, like Bird Flu, SArs etc... but it seems to be getting worse?

Anybody else in their 3rd trimester- or already have young babies too?

Lyn, 34wks tomorrow! ...............

Posted: 20/07/2009 at 19:25

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