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No one likes being sick, but influenza doesn’t care about personal feelings. The flu is categorized into different subtypes based on its protein content, and the 29 different strains of the influenza virus have varying effects on the human host. According to the CDC, up to 20% of the U.S. population contract the flu annually. That leads to an average of 200,000 people hospitalized from complications and thousands of deaths. The flu is an equal opportunity offender, and pregnant women can just as easily be targeted as anyone else. Fortunately, prevention is the best form of counterattack. But how can you prevent the flu during your pregnancy and hopefully, avoid needing to contact a birth injury attorney once your bundle of joy arrives?
Get the Flu Shot
Getting a cold or the flu during gestation can potentially harm your unborn baby. Fatigue, body aches, coughs, raw throat, fever, and gastrointestinal problems can transform a pleasant pregnancy into a pain. Moreover, the virus can affect fetal development and potentially cause infections, stall brain or heart growth, lead to premature delivery, or even cause a stillbirth. Fortunately, the flu shot is safe during any stage of the pregnancy, so there’s no reason to avoid it.
Kill Germs and Practice Good Hygiene Habits
Flu symptoms themselves don’t seem to have any effect on a developing fetus. But the virus attachment and high fever during pregnancy can lead to an array of birth defects, including facial deformities like spina bifida, a cleft palate, and even impede future growth abilities. Instead of taking a chance with the health of your baby, disinfect commonly used household and office items, take regular baths or showers. Wash your hands throughout the day or carry hand sanitizer. And if your immune system is low, consider wearing a mask in public until the viral threat passes.
Eat a Healthy Diet
There are no scientifically proven foods to help fight off the flu virus. However, a balanced diet during pregnancy is necessary for fetal growth and development. Foods high in zinc and vitamin C are also known for improving and supporting the mother’s immune system. Also, be sure to drink plenty of water while cutting back on soda, coffee, and processed juices. Unlike sugar and caffeine, water prevents dehydration and helps flush out mucus which can trap bacteria and other pathogens in the body.
Get Enough Exercise and Rest
Once-upon-a-time women were expected to be still and pampered throughout their pregnancy. But moderate amounts of consistent activity are actually crucial to a healthy fetus. Opt for trimester-appropriate exercises that will boost your immune system and help fetal development. Rest is also important during these 40 weeks. Various stages of pregnancy may lead to restlessness, but lack of sleep weakens the immune system and can cause an otherwise healthy body to be the perfect host for the flu virus.
Schedule an Extra Checkup
There’s no reason to be paranoid during your pregnancy. But if you start feeling under the weather or develop a high fever, your doctor needs to know. While a swab test for the flu isn’t 100% accurate, it can alert your medical team to low immunity and potential viral concerns. Your doctor may then prescribe a flu medication to kill the virus early before it has a chance to cause extra problems that could potentially lead to a birth defect or traumatic birth injury.