H1N1 Facts for Pregnant Women
Evidence from past flu pandemics (1918 and 1957) suggests that pregnant women are likely to be at increased risk for complications. These complications may include early labor or severe pneumonia. We don’t know if this virus will do the same, but it should be taken very seriously.
What can I do to protect myself, my baby, and my family?
Take these everyday steps to help prevent the spread of germs and protect your health:
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, or sneeze into your sleeve. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also good to use.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.
- Try to avoid close contact with sick people (if you are pregnant and you live or have close contact with someone who has H1N1 flu, talk to your doctor about medicines to prevent flu).
What should I do if I get sick?
- If there is H1N1 flu in your community, pay extra attention to your body and how you are feeling.
- If you get sick with flu-like symptoms, call your doctor. Your doctor will decide if testing or treatment is needed.
- If you are alone at anytime, have someone check in with you often if you are feeling sick.
- If you have close contact with someone who has flu or is being treated for exposure to flu, contact your doctor to discuss whether you need treatment to reduce your chances of getting flu.
- If you are sick with flu-like illness, the CDC recommends that you stay home at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to seek medical care. Keep away from others as much as possible to keep from making others sick.
When should I get emergency medical care?
If you have any of these signs, seek medical care right away:
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Pain or sudden pressure in the chest or abdomen
- Sudden dizziness
- Severe or persistent vomiting
- Decreased or no movement of your baby
- A high fever that is not responding to Tylenol
H1N1 Precautions in Labor & Delivery
Newborns are at increased risk for serious complications with influenza. Because very little is known about preventing H1N1 flu infection in infants, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) has issued the following recommendations to decrease the risk of exposure to babies at delivery, and after, when the mother may have H1N1 influenza:
- Antiviral medicine should be given to the mother as soon as possible.
- Mothers should wear a mask during labor and delivery if tolerable in order to decrease the risk of exposure to the newborn.
- Healthcare workers will wear a gown, gloves and a mask while caring for the mother. These are called “transmission-based precautions.”
The mother should consider avoiding close contact with her infant until she has taken antiviral medication for 48 hours, her fever has fully resolved, and she can control her cough and secretions.
- The infant should be cared for in a separate room by another person who is well.
- Because breastfeeding is so important, mothers should be encouraged and assisted to express their milk. While mother and baby are separated, the baby should be fed by another person who is well.
- As soon as the mother has been treated with antiviral medication for 48 hours, her fever has fully resolved and she can control her cough, the mother is encouraged to breastfeed frequently, but wear a mask, change to a clean gown, and wash her hands before each interaction with her infant.
- These measures should be continued for at least 7 days after flu symptoms started.
- Because it is not known if mothers transmit the virus to their fetus prior to birth, newborns whose mothers are ill will be separated from other babies in the nursery.
Mothers may choose not to follow the above recommendations and keep their babies with them in the room. In this situation, the following precautions will be used:
- The infant will stay in the mother’s room for her entire stay and will not return to the nursery.
- The mother will be asked to clean her hands with soap and water or hand sanitizer before touching or holding her baby.
- The mother will be encouraged to wear a clean gown over other clothing and to wear a mask when holding or feeding the baby.
- It will be recommended that the baby remain in the crib as much as possible and that the crib be placed at least three feet away from the mother when the baby is not being fed.
These precautions are being used to help protect the newborns from infection. Also, family members and friends should not visit if they are sick or have had recent exposure to a sick person. Family and friends should also be encouraged to get vaccinated for both seasonal influenza and H1N1 influenza.