Fertility and pregnancy

Pregnancy raises swine flu risk

Pregnancy raises swine flu risk Pregnant women at greater risk even if healthy

Pregnant women are at greater risk of serious complications or even death from swine flu even if they are otherwise healthy, according to studies by the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported in the Lancet.

The CDC analysed swine flu deaths in the US. From a total of 266 cases of death by swine flu they found that 6% were of pregnant women, mostly in the third stage (trimester). Given that at any one time around 1% of the US population is pregnant, this means that pregnant women are approximately 4 times more at risk of death than the rest of the population.

It should be noted at this stage that the numbers involved are too low to be considered definitive, however it does represent an alarming trend, one which has been replicated in other flu epidemics.

Another important finding by the study is that in most cases the women's doctors did NOT prescribe flu medicines as soon as the symptoms appeared, perhaps because of concerns about giving drugs to pregnant women. These findings underline the fact that the risk of flu is much greater than any supposed risk from the use of drugs such as Tamiflu or Relenza during pregnancy.

The advice given by health care professionals is that any pregnant women exhibiting flu like symptoms, especially high temperature, should immediately contact her doctor and obtain anti-viral medicine.

The results so far do not suggest that pregnant women are more likely to contract flu if exposed to it, only that if infected there is a higher risk of complications. However, in most cases pregnant women, like the rest of the population, experience only mild symptoms and recover quickly from the virus.

This article was published on Wed 29 July 2009

Image © Anatoly Tiplyashin - Fotolia.com

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