Does being pregnant increase my chances of getting H1N1
Mystie Johnson, MD, is an OB/GYN on staff at Banner Estrella Medical Center. Her office can be reached at (623) 936-1780. For more information, talk to your doctor, or call (602) 230-CARE.
Question: Is it true that being pregnant increases my risk of contracting the H1N1 virus? If I do become ill, what can I do to prevent harm to me and my baby?
Answer: It’s no secret that pregnant women experience a great deal of physical and emotional stress in caring for their bodies and for the growing fetus. As a result, the immune system is also stressed, making expectant mothers more susceptible to contagious viruses, such as H1N1.
The H1N1 virus is affecting people around the world and is similar to seasonal flu, both in how it presents itself and how it spreads from person to person. Although the virus is new and needs more study, it appears that pregnant women, as well as people with chronic health issues or compromised immune systems, are more likely to contract the virus. These same people may also experience more severe symptoms or complications than otherwise healthy individuals.
Some simple precautions for preventing the H1N1 virus are frequent hand washing, not touching your eyes, nose or mouth, and avoiding people with flu or cold-like symptoms. Also, all pregnant women should make a point of getting a seasonal flu shot, and the new H1N1 vaccine. FluMist, a nasal spray delivery of H1N1 vaccine is NOT an appropriate choice for pregnant women.
For those moms-to-be who do become sick, symptoms usually appear quickly and include cough, sore throat, fever, muscle aches and headaches, and congestion. While most cases are mild, it is important to tell your physician immediately so he or she can closely monitor your health and the health of your baby and determine the best course of treatment. Antiviral medications prescribed at the onset of symptoms, or right after exposure to the H1N1 virus, have proven to be effective.
However, severe cases of the virus can require hospitalization, and have resulted in serious complications, such as pneumonia, miscarriage, pre-term birth, and death. If you begin to experience symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, persistent fever, severe vomiting or diarrhea, chest or abdomen pain, reduced baby movement, or confusion, seek urgent medical care.
Because of the potential severity of the virus in pregnant women, it is critical that your doctor is aware of your condition at all times and that you take all necessary precautions. The sooner the H1N1 virus is diagnosed and treated, the better the chances of a complication-free pregnancy.