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Pregnancy and swine flu, questions answered

22nd July 2009

Experts have warned of the possibly harmful effects of the swine flu virus on pregnant women and their babies.


A woman aged 39 who was infected with the virus died after she gave birth and her baby is in intensive care.

The BBC asked Maureen Baker, Head of Pandemic Planning at the Royal College of General Practitioners to answer some readers' queries about pregnancy and swine flu.


What are the risks of catching the virus in early pregnancy?

Dr Baker: Catching the virus would pose a low risk so you should not be too worried.

What is the best advice for lessening the danger of catching the virus? If signs of swine flu emerge what should we do? My wife is expecting her second baby in seven days and we have a 23 month old son.

Dr Baker: Make sure to wash hands thoroughly and do not interact with people who are suffering from flu or have signs of the virus. If one of your family shows signs of swine flu get in touch with your GP in order to find antiviral medication.

What is the chance of miscarriage if I get swine flu?

Dr Baker: There is a somewhat heightened danger of miscarriage in pregnant women who catch the virus but it is still a low risk.

I am over 40 weeks pregnant at the moment, should I ask to be induced early to reduce the risks?

Dr Baker: No. You should allow labour to begin in a natural way.

I have a child aged three and am 29 weeks pregnant. Should I remove her from nursery until a vaccine is made available?

Dr Baker: No that step is not needed.

I am over six months pregnant and have a holiday scheduled - can I still go? Does travelling by plane add to the danger of getting the virus?

Dr Baker: You should not cancel your holiday. I do not think that travelling by plane adds to the risk of getting swine flu. You might want to wash your hands frequently while you travel.

I work in a pharmacy and am seven months pregnant. The news that a mother has died has made me very worried. People have come into the pharmacy requesting Tamiflu medication. Should I stay away from work?

Dr Baker: Please do not worry - it is not healthy for you or your child. You could ask your employer if you can carry out tasks which minimise your exposure to the public. If you can't do this, then wash your hands regularly and keep one metre from your customers. Even if you are infected, the danger of developing problems is still very small.

A person I work with had very bad flu around a fortnight ago. I am five months pregnant - should I take any precautionary medicine?

Dr Baker: No.

Does the current pneumococcal vaccine provided to infants protect them from swine flu complications or does the virus produce a "different strain"? Could the vaccine be offered to pregnant women?

Dr Baker: "We are not aware that many chest infections that are complications of this form of flu are caused by pneumococcus. Nor do I believe there are currently any plans to extend the pneumococcal vaccination programme."

I work as a nursing sister for respiratory patients and am pregnant. What would you advise?

Dr Baker: "In general pregnant HCWs should be directed to work with non-flu patients if this is possible and unlikely to result in poorer services for patients."

I have diabetes and am 34 weeks pregnant - am I "high risk"? Should I not take public transport and stay away from shopping malls?

Dr Baker: Pregnant women have been told not to stay away from tubes and buses but they may want to think about keeping away from crowded places where they "may have no control over the people they come into close contact with".

I was thinking about trying for another baby - should I put this off because of the swine flu dangers? 

Dr Baker: I don't think you need to delay trying for a child.

Swine flu has infected colleagues in my office and I share desks with different people. I am 31 weeks pregnant. Should I stay at work?

Dr Baker: You don't need to stay away from work. Why not make certain that all work spaces are cleaned well?

My wife is a teacher and is 23 weeks pregnant. Dow she need to stay away when the school term begins again in September?

Dr Baker: No, this is not necessary.

I have been infected with a cold and am 26 weeks pregnant. Does this raise the danger of catching the virus and should I stay at home?

Dr Baker: A cold does not increase the risk and you can carry on working if you are well.

I am in contact with the public because of my job and am six months pregnant. Should I tell my company that I want a "back-office" position until I take maternity leave?

Dr Baker: See if your company will carry out a "risk assessment" and if you could take on a role which does not have public contact.

NHS Direct appears to say that people at high risk need to take antiviral medication as quickly as they can. However my midwife and NHS UK say I should not do this until I show sigs of the disease. What should I do?

Dr Baker: It is not necessary to take antiviral medication unless you show signs of the virus.

My family of three have been confirmed as having the virus. We had to arrange for someone to go seven miles to the supply of Tamiflu and then travel back. Why don't GP surgeries stock it? Is the health service doing this "on the cheap"?

Dr Baker: "No, it's almost certainly more expensive to run a national flu service, provide antivirals at no charge and staff antiviral distribution centres. These arrangements are designed to take pressure off GP practices so the practices can continue to look after people who are ill with other acute medical problems as well as dealing with any patients who develop flu."

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Article Information

Title: Pregnancy and swine flu, questions answered
Author: Jess Laurence
Article Id: 12235
Date Added: 22nd Jul 2009


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