What Pregnant Women and New Mothers Should Know about H1N1

Pregnant women and infants have a higher risk of complications from the H1N1 flu virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). So new mothers and mothers-to-be are naturally concerned about what they can do to keep themselves and their babies healthy. Here's what you need to know:

Prevention

Pregnant women and people who live with or care for children (especially infants) are on the high-risk list for the first round of H1N1 vaccine distribution. The best thing you can do for you and your baby is to get the H1N1 vaccine as soon as it is available to you.

If you're still waiting for the H1N1 vaccination, you should follow the same prevention tips that everyone should be following:

  • Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze, or sneeze into your elbow.

  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water, especially after you cough or sneeze.

  • Avoid touching your nose, eyes, and mouth.

  • Try to avoid contact with sick people

  • Stock up on health and emergency supplies, so you're ready if anything happens.

Because pregnant women are more susceptible to H1N1, avoiding contact with sick people is more important for you if you're pregnant. If someone in your family is sick, arrange for someone else to care for them.

If you come in close contact with someone who has the H1N1 flu, talk to you doctor immediately. Preventive measures that can keep H1N1 at bay are available.

If you think you have the flu

Pregnant women already pay closer attention to their bodies than most of us do. When it comes to pregnancy and the swine flu, it's better to err on the side of caution: If you think you're starting to show signs of flu, see your doctor immediately.

If you get the flu

If you have flu-like symptoms, stay home, away from people you might infect, and see your doctor immediately. Have someone check in on you regularly if you're feeling ill.

New mothers who get the flu or flu-like symptoms might worry about passing that bug onto their infant children while feeding them. Studies have shown that children who are breast fed get sick from infections less often than children who are not breast fed. The antibodies that your body makes to fight infections are passed on to your child through your breast milk, so stopping breast feeding altogether can actually raise a child's chances of getting an infection like the flu. Continue to breast feed your child unless your doctor tells you otherwise.

However, if you come down with a full-blown case of the flu — either seasonal or H1N1 — the safest bet is to express your milk and have a healthy person feed and care for your child. If such help isn't available, wearing a face mask when feeding and caring for your baby can also curb your child's chances of getting sick.

If your infant child gets sick

Breast feeding is the best, easiest, and least expensive way to build up your infant's immune system. If your child gets the flu — or any illness, for that matter — do not stop breast feeding. A child's body needs more fluids when it's fighting an illness, and their tiny, underdeveloped immune systems need all the help they can get. Your breastmilk provides for both of these needs.

Of course, it goes without saying that if your child starts to exhibit flu-like symptoms, you should see your pediatrician. Especially with the continuing threat of H1N1, pediatricians are staying current with ongoing news and information about care, treatment, and prevention of H1N1, so their input can be invaluable for returning your child to health or even saving your child's life.

For more information, the CDC offers great and credible information about H1N1 that is updated regularly.

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