With pregnant women at a higher risk for serious complications from the swine flu, mothers-to-be are wondering if getting the disease could affect the baby they are carrying.
Based on limited information from previous seasonal and pandemic influenza data, the virus doesn’t appear to transfer from the mother to fetus very easily, according to an article published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia.
Still, some studies from early pandemics such as the Asian flu outbreak in 1957 suggest there may be some increased risk for miscarriage, early delivery or neurological defects in babies born to mothers who have serious cases of the flu.
“Associations between maternal influenza infection and childhood leukemia, schizophrenia, and Parkinson disease have been suggested by (additional) studies,” writes lead author Dr. Sonja Rasmussen of the CDC. However, “more study is needed to better understand the fetal risks of maternal influenza infection,” she adds.
It may be the mother’s immune response to the infection-- not the virus itself-- that poses a threat to a developing fetus. Prolonged fever, for example, is known to increase the risk of neurological problems to a baby in utero.
Pregnant women should see their physician early on if they have flu symptoms in order to get proper anti-fever medication and assess their need for influenza treatments, the authors suggest.
All individuals should follow the standard precautionary steps to avoid getting the flu in the first place: stay away from crowds and sick people, wash your hands frequently and try to keep your hands away from your eyes, nose and mouth.
Rasmussen, S., et al; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Rasmussen, S., et al., “Pandemic Influenza and Pregnant Women,” Emerging Infectious Diseases, Jan 2008: http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?tool=pubmed&pubmedid=18258087
EmpowHer Links: Check out more about women’s responses to influenza and the swine flu:
CDC, “Swine Flu,”: http://www.cdc.gov/swineflu/