With the swine flu now holding the potential for a worldwide pandemic, there is perhaps no one more worried about getting sick than women who are pregnant.
This is particularly true for those of you over 35 who may already be struggling with fertility issues - or maybe undergoing fertility treatments right now.
The good news is that pregnancy doesn't necessarily increase your risk for getting the swine flu - or any other type of flu. However, it is important to note that if you do get the flu while you are pregnant, studies show you are up to five times more likely to suffer serious complications - such as pneumonia. And that is often where most of the flu fatalities lie.
In terms of risks to your baby, the greatest threat from illnesses such as the flu occur from high fevers in the mother during pregnancy. Sustained body temperature over 101 degrees, and particularly over 102 degrees can increase the risk of miscarriage and lead to an increased risk of neural tube defects in your baby - which include life-threatening malformations of the brain and spine.
The good news is there are things you can do to prevent these problems even if you get the flu.
The first is to control your fever.The March of Dimes recommends acetaminophen (Tylenol) but talk to your doctor first to make certain it's okay for you. You should also try to keep your body as cool as possible with cold compresses, and drink plenty of fluids. Pregnancy is not the time to "sweat out " a fever.
Second is continue to take your prenatal vitamins - particularly 1000 mcg of folic acid. Studies conducted at theNational Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities in England,found that women who took a multi vitamin high in folic acid during pregnancy decreased their baby's risk of birth defects,even if they ran a fever while pregnant.
In terms of the the two medications used to treat swine flu - Tamiflu and Relenza - like other flu medications they are ranked by the FDA as "Category C " drugs - meaning they have not been tested for use during pregnancy.That said, it's important to note that there have not been any cases of birth defects or other serious health concerns linked to the use of these drugs in pregnant women who have used them.
So, if symptoms are severe, your doctor might suggest a course of either drug, and if this is the case, experts say don't be fearful.
Finally, relax and don't worry! Right now, the stress and anxiety of worrying about getting sick is likely to cause you more harm than the risk of actually getting the flu, which at this point is still quite small.
For more tips and information on swine flu and pregnancy, and some important details on what to do if you contract swine flu while undergoing fertility treatments, check outthis articleonGettingPregnantNow.org.