The traditional flu season hasn’t officially arrived yet, but already an unusually large number of flu cases have been reported. The H1N1 virus, commonly referred to as the swine flu, poses a threat to all of us, and women who are pregnant should take extra precautions to prevent H1N1. Since this virus is relatively new, experts do not know if pregnant women are at a higher risk of being infected or developing serious complications from H1N1. However, research has shown that pregnant women have a greater chance of getting sick and having serious problems with the common seasonal flu; therefore experts recommend that H1N1 be taken very seriously. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is recommending that pregnant women be at the front of the line for H1N1 vaccination.
The federal government has ordered 195 million doses of vaccine. While there will be enough vaccine to cover the recommended groups, the timing will vary. The vaccine is undergoing clinical trials, and the first 40 million doses should be available by Oct. 15. Thirty million more will be delivered by the end of October, and new batches each week after that.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the use of one dose of 2009 H1N1 flu vaccine for those 10 years of age and older. Data from trials among children under the age of ten are not yet available. At present, the FDA has approved two doses for children nine years of age and younger. It is likely that younger children will require two doses. The recommended interval between the first and second dose is not yet known until the clinical trials are complete, but will likely be 21-28 days.
Recommending that pregnant women be vaccinated against seasonal flu is a tough sell for many health care providers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stepped up its campaign over the past five years, yet fewer than 15 percent of pregnant women get seasonal flu shots. Many women are overly cautious and prefer not to take or be exposed to anything during pregnancy. However, flu shots have not been shown to cause harm to a pregnant woman or her baby. The seasonal flu shot is proven safe and already recommended for pregnant women. The H1N1 vaccine is being made the same way and in the same facilities as seasonal influenza vaccine. It should be emphasized that the risk associated with getting a flu shot is much lower than the risk of doing nothing.
Yes, continue to breastfeed your baby if you have the flu. A mother’s milk is made to protect her baby from disease. Babies who drink breast milk are not likely to get as sick, or get sick as often, from the flu as babies who are not breastfed.
If you are sick with the flu while breastfeeding:
Recognizing the symptoms of H1N1