Pregnant women infected with H1N1 flu have a higher rate of hospitalization and a greater risk of death than the general population has due to the flu, according to a study in the British medical journal Lancet.
"If a pregnant woman feels like she may have influenza, she needs to call her healthcare provider right away," says the study's lead author, Denise Jamieson, M.D., of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Some clinicians hesitate treating pregnant women with antiviral medications because of concerns for the developing fetus, but this is the wrong approach," says Jamieson. "It is critical that pregnant women, in particular, be treated promptly."
Six deaths of pregnant women with H1N1 were reported to the CDC between April 15 and June 16, 2009, representing 13 percent of the 45 deaths reported to the CDC during that time period. All were healthy prior to infection with H1N1, and all subsequently developed primary viral pneumonia leading to acute respiratory distress requiring mechanical ventilation. None of the pregnant women who died received antivirals soon enough to benefit from their treatment, the researchers say.
Despite recommendations from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists that all pregnant women receive the inactivated seasonal flu vaccine, the percentage of pregnant women in the U.S. who get the seasonal flu vaccine each year has been very low — less than 14 percent. Health officials are hoping that pregnant women will roll up their sleeves for both seasonal and H1N1 vaccines this year.
— Sources: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; The Lancet