Friday, March 14, 2008

Pregnancy and pandemics: One more reason to plan ahead

You're pregnant. Your feet hurt, none of your clothes fit. You've made 11 trips to the bathroom already and it's not even noon. The last thing you are thinking about is pandemic flu, right?

Unfortunately, the possibility of a flu pandemic or infectious disease outbreak doesn't disappear when a baby is on the way. As a matter of fact, it's more of a concern for women when they are pregnant.

Here's why: Pregnant women are more likely to catch the flu and become very sick, which can cause pregnancy problems. Pregnant women go to the doctor's office a lot for regular check ups (can't they get some new magazines in the waiting room, already?) which means they won't be able to stay home and avoid people who may have the flu. Some moms-to-be may be scared about taking medicine to treat the flu because they are worried about the effect it might have on their upcoming new arrival.

While there is plenty of advice out there for pregnant women and seasonal flu, there is not enough advice on pandemic planning for pregnant women, and they need answers.

That's where our health officials come in. A recent journal article says that health officials can do more to make sure women are educated about pandemic flu and have the right advice. The article, written by researchers with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, calls for more planning for the needs of pregnant women during a pandemic as well as more research and better communication on the issue.

Our advice? If you are a doctor or health worker who works with pregnant women, start thinking of how pandemic flu might affect them. If you are a pregnant woman, ask your health provider for guidance. If she or he doesn't have the answers, this fact sheet on pandemic flu and pregnancy from the Indiana State Department of Health is a start.

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