Flu in pregnancy: how to behave

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High fever, cold, cough, sore throat, muscle aches, headache, general malaise: these are the classic flu symptoms, which of course can also affect pregnancy. But if the symptoms are the same, is there anything that changes if you catch the flu while you are expecting a baby?

In this article

  • The risks for mom
  • The risks for the future baby
  • How to prevent the flu
  • Healing
  • drugs
  • When to go to the doctor
Read also: Influenza: what the 2022/2022 season will be like

Influenza in pregnancy, the possible risks for the mother

The pregnant woman is a little more vulnerable than the norm because pregnancy involves a number of adaptations of the cardio-respiratory system and of the immune system that limit its defense capabilities.

"This exposes her to a slightly higher risk of complications, especially of the respiratory type, like pneumonia, "he explains , director of the obstetrics and gynecology department of the Buzzi Hospital in our city. They are also possible generalized infections (the dreaded sepsis) e dehydration: all conditions that may require the woman to be hospitalized.

Obviously we are talking about rare or very rare events, don't be too alarmed. However, it is good to know that those who are expecting a child run some more serious risks with the flu: useful information for evaluating prevention strategies - especially the vaccination - and not to overlook the situation if the symptoms seem a little heavier than normal.

Read also: Influenza, 13 myths to dispel

Influenza in pregnancy, the possible risks for the baby

The baby could also be affected if the flu hits the expectant mother. Various studies indeed show a increased risk of preterm birth, with all the possible consequences related to prematurity.

More controversial, however, is the association with congenital malformations not so much of the flu itself as of high fever which may be present in case of infection: an American study published in 2022 highlighted a slight increase in risk, which was not observed in a Danish study published in the same year. However, the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, United States, report that "fever, a common symptom of the flu, may be associated with the risk of neural tube defects (such as spina bifida) or other adverse events for the developing child ”.

Read also: Premature babies, 10 things to know

How to prevent the flu

The rules of hygiene

The flu is transmitted through the respiratory tract, so to avoid getting sick some hygienic precautions such as wash your hands often, especially before eating or taking them to the mouth, ed avoid crowded places (and people with clear cold symptoms). All rules that during the Covid-19 pandemic we have learned to respect! Even the use of masks, foreseen by the anti-COvid prevention regulations, is certainly helpful in the prevention of influenza.


It is the safest tool we have at our disposal to defend ourselves from the flu. "Vaccination during pregnancy can be done without problems," she stresses Fabrizio Pregliasco, virologist of the University of our city and medical director of the Galeazzi Orthopedic Institute, also in our city. Indeed: various national and international health authorities highly recommend to carry out this vaccination during pregnancy. They do it the World Health Organization it's ours Ministry of Health, which also recommends vaccination against whooping cough, to protect mom and baby. Both vaccinations are offered free of charge: for information, just contact your doctor or the ASL vaccination office.

Until 2022, the recommended time for vaccination in Del Paese was second or third trimester of pregnancy. "An indication given for an excess of precaution" explains Pregliasco. "In fact, no vaccine-induced harm to the unborn child has been demonstrated even if performed in the first trimester." So much so that for several years in some countries, for example the United States, the flu vaccination was recommended starting from the first trimester. From 2022 our Ministry of Health also recommends it to all women who are pregnant (therefore also in the first trimester) at the beginning of the flu season.

Read also: Vaccines for childbearing age and pregnancy: the recommendations of the Ministry of Health

Influenza vaccination and Covid-19

According to the Ministry of Health, the flu shot will be even more important than usual in the coming months. Not only to prevent cases of influenza and reduce complications from influenza in people at risk, including pregnant women, but also to simplify the diagnosis and management of suspected cases, given the similar symptoms between Covid-19 and influenza . This should also reduce access to emergency rooms. In other words: the flu vaccine does not protect against Sars-Cov-2, but it could help to identify cases of Covid-19 more easily (in the presence of flu symptoms even after vaccination). 

How is the flu treated in pregnancy?

What if you are not vaccinated and the flu still comes? The first tip is to stay at home until symptoms are completely resolved - usually takes a week - without claiming to 'speed up' healing. With or without drugs, the flu takes a few days to clear from the body.


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Flu in pregnancy, which drugs to use

To lower fever and relieve any pain, the drug of first choice in pregnancy is paracetamol. "Even if it is a drug considered safe, however, it goes always taken under the supervision of your family doctor, which now more than ever has to follow the course of the disease "recommends the professor.

"Gargling with can also be helpful chlorhexidine-based mouthwashes, which has a disinfectant action on the oral cavity and on the tonsils, where bacterial proliferations can develop. To soothe the sore throat throat sprays can also be used, which, while not accelerating healing, have a mild analgesic action. Finally, it is important to moisturize the mucous membranes with frequent nasal washings or aerosol with physiological solution or sea water ".

When to see your doctor or go to the obstetric emergency room

Directions from the Atlanta Centers for Disease Control:

  • Respiratory difficulties;
  • pain or tightness in the chest or abdomen;
  • sudden nausea;
  • confusion;
  • intense and persistent vomiting;
  • high fever that does not respond to antipyretic;
  • feeling that the baby is moving less than usual, or in a different way

Vaccinations and SIDS risk: an 'old' suspicion denied by science

(by Fabrizio Pregliasco, virologist at the University of our city and medical director of Isituto Galeazzi)

All vaccines have long been accused of causing serious or even fatal side effects. In fact, from a scientific point of view there is no correlation between the administration of vaccines and the increase in mortality or morbidity. One accusation in particular concerned a few years ago the association between vaccination and SIDS, the feared death in cradle that can affect babies in the first months of life.

The issue was raised in France in the late 80s, when there was a temporal correlation between the widespread introduction of the pertussis vaccine and an increase in SIDS cases. Subsequently, studies on SIDS showed that the increase in cases was due to incorrect postural modalities: in the past, in fact, parents were advised to make children sleep on their stomachs, while the scientific community later demonstrated that the safest position for the baby to sleep is the supine position, which allows the baby to breathe optimally reduces the SIDS risk by 50%.

Since certain recommendations were disclosed, the incidence of SIDS has declined, although pertussis vaccination continued to be administered to the infant population. This allowed us to conclude that the correlation between the two events was only one coincidence in time, which had no cause and effect relationship. And what can be said for pertussis vaccination concerns all types of vaccinations, against which the finger is often pointed: statistically there is no difference in mortality or morbidity between vaccinated and unvaccinated people, at any age or condition. belong.

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  • coronavirus
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