Dr Rahul Sen | Specialist care for birth and beyond | Sydney, Australia

Rooms : Edgecliff 02 9363 9474
Macquarie Street 02 9221 2600

Swine Flu in Pregnancy

Information on Influenza H1N1 (“Swine Flu”) and Pregnancy

Viral respiratory tract infections are widespread in the community, especially in winter. They are so widespread that you cannot avoid contact with them in public. In the vast majority of cases people develop flu-like symptoms and make a complete and rapid recovery. That includes pregnant women.

A very small proportion of pregnant women have become seriously unwell with proven or suspected swine flu and have required admission to intensive care units. So far the majority of those women have been in the second and third trimester and most have made a complete recovery. Testing is generally not necessary as treatment is required before results are available.

One of the key features of influenza in adults is the presence of a fever. That is in contrast to the common cold, where fever is usually absent or very mild in adults. Children, on the other hand, typically get fevers with most infections, including the common cold. It is not easy to differentiate between the symptoms of swine flu and other types of influenza. For that reason early treatment is recommended if you have flu-like symptoms in pregnancy. Treatment is available free in pregnancy, for those who need it, from your family doctor or from the emergency department.

Flu-like symptoms include a fever and one or more of the following:

  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose
  • Aching joints
  • Fatigue
  • Sneezing
  • Muscle ache
  • Cough

The best way to avoid infection it to prevent exposure. For pregnant women who can work effectively from home it is recommended that you work from home where possible. On request I am happy to provide a letter for your employer making that recommendation. For pregnant women who cannot work from home, including most health care workers, the aim is to minimise exposure at work. This may require redeployment within the workplace to roles that do not involve direct interaction with people with a flu-like illness.

In the interests of protecting patients, new-born babies and other pregnant women could you please stay at home when you are unwell and refrain from bringing children and other family members into rooms or into the hospital if they have symptoms of flu-like illness.