Influenza or the “flu” is an infectious viral illness spread by coughs and sneezes. It’s not the same as a cold. The flu is caused by a different group of viruses. Symptoms tend to be more severe and last longer. You can catch the flu all year-round, but it is especially common in winter and as we are coming into the colder months, it is imperative to be mindful especially during pregnancy.

The flu is serious for pregnant women, and those who get the flu are at higher risk of hospitalisation and complications such as premature labour and delivery. So how does the flu impact on women during pregnancy?

After you have been infected with the flu virus, you will usually start feeling the symptoms between one and three days later. Symptoms can include:

  • fever
  • chills
  • cough
  • sore throat
  • headaches
  • muscle aches
  • severe tiredness
  • loss of appetite.

If you develop flu-like symptoms your GP can assess you to make sure that you and your baby are otherwise well.

If your GP suspects that you have the flu, they may prescribe antiviral medications. These should be commenced in the first two days of the illness to have the greatest benefit.

GPs do not routinely test everyone with flu-like symptoms. However, because you are pregnant your doctor may decide to test you for the virus by collecting a nose and throat swab. Women who are near term (more than 38 weeks’ gestation) or those with pregnancy complications may need to be admitted to hospital.

Similar procedures that we have advised for COVID-19 are to be adhered to for the flu as well. To avoid influenza, pregnant women should also be advised to take sensible precautions including:

  • avoiding close contact with people who have symptoms, if possible 
  • washing hands with soap and running water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser after contact with symptomatic people or their secretions
  • encourage symptomatic people in the household to keep at least 1 metre away and follow cough etiquette and good hand hygiene 
  • avoid large, crowded gatherings during the influenza season.

Influenza vaccination during pregnancy should be routine: safety is well established for both mother and baby, and maternal antibody continues to protect the newborn in the critical first few months of life.

If you have questions or concerns regarding the flu or COVID19 during pregnancy, please feel free to contact Dr Samina (contact@drsamina.com.au) or her friendly staff on 03 9218 8023.