Page last updated at 15:25 GMT, Tuesday, 21 July 2009 16:25 UK

Swine flu and pregnancy: Your questions

Dr Maureen Baker
Dr Baker is Honorary Secretary of the RCGP

Health experts say expectant mothers could suffer possible complications if they contract swine flu.

Concern over the effects of swine flu on expectant mothers has grown since the death of a 39-year-old woman shortly after giving birth. Her baby is said to be very ill in intensive care.

The BBC News website put a number of your questions to flu expert Maureen Baker, Head of Pandemic Planning at the Royal College of General Practitioners.

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

I am in the early stages of pregnancy and usually prone to winter colds. I am very concerned about this and if I was to contract swine flu what would the risks be? I am flying to Ireland in two weeks as well. Nikki Beale, Southampton, England

Dr Baker: Even if you do catch swine flu, the risks to you are still low so you should not be unduly concerned.

My wife is due to give birth to our second child in around one week. Our son is 23 months old. I would like to ask for current best advice on reducing the risk of contracting swine flu and if symptoms should appear, the best course of action to follow. Anonymous, Edinburgh, UK

Dr Baker: Good hand hygiene (frequent hand washing with soap and water or use a hand sanitiser). Do not mix with people known to have flu-like symptoms. If your wife or children develop symptoms then contact your GP to access antiviral treatment.

I am just three months pregnant. What are the chances of miscarriage if I contract swine flu? Rosie Hewitt, Arundel, West Sussex

Dr Baker: There is a slightly higher chance of miscarriage for women who get flu in pregnancy, but the risk is generally quite low.

I am now 40+ weeks pregnant, should I be requesting an early inducement date to minimise my risk? Tanya Morris, Watford, Hertfordshire

Dr Baker: No, you are better to wait till labour starts naturally.

I am 29 weeks pregnant with a three-year-old and I would like to know if you advise that I take my daughter out of her private nursery until a vaccine is being given? Fran Cohen, Poole, Dorset

Dr Baker: No that is not necessary.

I am due to go on holiday this weekend and am currently 26 weeks pregnant. Should I go ahead and does being on a plane increase the risk of picking up swine flu? Anon, London

Dr Baker: There is no reason I can see not to go on holiday. I don't believe that being on a plane by itself increases the chances of catching this virus. You may wish to consider frequent hand cleaning while travelling.

I am seven months pregnant and the news has terrified me. I work for a pharmacy as a sales assistant and in the past weeks we have had people diagnosed with swine flu asking for Tamiflu for themselves or their children which they brought along. I was happy to work as long as I could before taking my maternity leave, however after hearing the death of the mother after birth I did not go to work today and I don't think I will go back. Should I continue to stay off work? Enida Bela, London

Dr Baker: Please don't be terrified. There is no need and that is not good for you or your baby. It might be possible for you to be given duties that avoid public contact. If not, it would be reasonable to ensure you keep a distance from the customers you deal with. If you keep a distance of a metre from customers and frequently clean your hands you will help protect yourself. However, if you do become ill with flu, your chances of getting severe complications are fortunately still very low.

I am 20 weeks pregnant. A colleague at work had a very strong flu a couple of weeks ago. Do I need to get any preventative medication? Ana, London

Dr Baker: No.

I'd like to ask if the current pneumococcal vaccine currently given to babies will give them some form of protection from the complications of swine flu, or does swine flu cause a different strain? If so could this vaccine be given to pregnant women to prevent complications? Jay, Hereford

Dr Baker: We are not aware that many chest infections that are complications of this form of flu are caused by pneumococcus. Nor do I believe there are currently any plans to extend the pneumococcal vaccination programme.

I am pregnant and a nursing sister at the hospital and work with respiratory patients. What would be the advice for me? My work and GP as well as the RCN don't seem to know. We can't have a risk assessment as the details we need are missing or constantly changing. Anon, Blackpool, Lancashire

Dr Baker: In general pregnant HCWs should be directed to work with non-flu patients if this is possible and unlikely to result in poorer services for patients.

I am 34 weeks pregnant, and I have had type 1 diabetes for two years. My blood sugars are very well controlled. Am I in a high risk group, and should I avoid tube travel and busy shopping centres? Michelle Robinson, Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire

Dr Baker: Pregnant women have been advised there is no need to avoid public transport, but they may wish to consider avoiding public gatherings where they may have no control over the people they come into close contact with.

I am 38 years old with a 20-month-old little boy and was going to start trying for another baby and came off the pill last month, but all the conflicting swine flu advice is really worrying and confusing. Should I hold off trying to get pregnant, and if so, for how long, as I'm 38 so obviously don't want to leave it too long. Anon

Dr Baker: I don't believe there is good reason to delay trying for a baby at present.

I am 31 weeks pregnant and swine flu was confirmed in my work last week. I work in a call centre were desks are shared - should I be there? Kirsty, Accrington, England

Dr Baker: There is no reason why you should not go to work. Why not ensure shared equipment is properly cleaned?

My wife, who is 31 years old and 23 weeks pregnant, teaches in a secondary school. Luckily the schools have broken up but should my wife avoid school in the autumn? Chris Mason, St Albans, UK

Dr Baker: No, there is no need for your wife to avoid school in the autumn.

I am 26 weeks pregnant and have had a cold for the last week. Does my cold put me at even higher risk? Should I stay at home until it has cleared? Jo, Herts.

Dr Baker: Having a cold does not put you at higher risk of catching flu. You should be able to continue to go to work if you feel well enough.

I am 24 weeks pregnant and my job means that I have to deal with the public. Should I insist that I have a back-office job until I go on maternity leave? Rachel, London

Dr Baker: You could ask your employer to conduct a risk assessment and if it is possible to take a back-office role then that might be something that would make you feel happier about continuing at work.

When I read NHS Direct it seemed to suggest that high risk groups start taking antivirals as soon as possible and yet after reading NHS UK and speaking to my midwife they suggest that I wait until I've got symptoms. Which is the higher risk option? Julie, Northwich, England

Dr Baker: There is no point whatsoever in taking antiviral treatment if you do not have symptoms.

My wife, myself and our daughter were diagnosed with swine flu last week. To be able to collect the prescribed Tamiflu we had to find someone willing to travel 7 miles to the central stockpile and back. Why isn't it available at local GPs surgeries? Is the NHS doing it on the cheap at patients' inconvenience? Mr Ian J Carruthers, Bolton

Dr Baker: No, it's almost certainly more expensive to run a national flu service, provide antivirals at no charge and staff antiviral distribution centres. These arrangements are designed to take pressure off GP practices so the practices can continue to look after people who are ill with other acute medical problems as well as dealing with any patients who develop flu.



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