After the dip in new cases of swine flu in the summer, the pandemic does unfortunately continue to take hold in the UK now that we are into the season most commonly associated with colds and flu. Much of the advice still stands from when we first reported about swine flu in pregnancy in the spring, but as pregnant women are amongst those groups of people at higher risk from suffering complications, any woman who is or thinks she might be pregnant is advised to keep in touch with current advice. There is a dedicated Swine Flu Pandemic website if you have any queries or concerns now that the NHS has widened its facilities for advice and treatment of people coming to them worried about or showing symptoms of swine flu.
The Department for Health also has information on its website that is useful for the whole family to read, but it 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 www.dh.gov.uk.
Swine flu risk in pregnancy
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 supressed (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.
Do I have to have the swine flu vaccine?
No vaccine is compulsory, but do be reassured that studies have shown the vaccine has no negative effect on the mother or unborn child. This was confirmed at the beginning of October 2009 which is why pregnant women have now been added to the vaccination programme list. But if you're feeling unsure, check out our swine flu jab lowdown to give you all the facts.
In the meantime, if your surgery does not yet know you are pregnant, make sure you get in touch with them and have a confirmation test as soon as possible so that you are on any list for special care that may be required.
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.
For dedicated advice, go to www.direct.gov.uk.