With the reports of swine flu deaths increasing in South Africa, the focus now lies on identifying high risk groups prone to fatalities from the H1N1 virus and either vaccinating or starting treatment immediately. Globally, the high risk groups were considered to be children, patients with chronic conditions, pregnant women, the elderly and health care workers. However, as the time passes and a clearer ‘disease picture’ emerges, it appears that pregnant women are among the higher risk, while the elderly are less at risk than younger people. South Africa has been the first country to announce immediate treatment for any pregnant woman in the second or third trimester with many other countries now following suit.
Anti-virals in Pregnancy
Pregnancy, especially in the third trimester, is a strain on the body as the heart, lungs, liver and digestive tract has to function at its optimum to maintain both the mother and growing foetus. Any pregnant woman, especially in the second or third trimester, who may be showing signs and symptoms of the swine flu is now advised to start anti-virals like Tamiflu without testing for the presence of the H1N1 virus. While some women are concerned about the side effects of these anti-virals and the dangers for the unborn child, the potentially fatal outcome of a swine flu infection in pregnancy, outweighs these concerns.
Side Effects and Safety of Tamiflu in Pregnancy
The most common side effects of Tamiflu are nausea and vomiting, both of which may occur with a swine flu infection anyway. However the Tamiflu website provides important safety information about the drug in which it mentions that pregnant or breastfeeding women should take precautions. The website also states that Tamiflu is not recommended in pregnant and nursing women and many mothers are now concerned about using the drug. This is not a notice to avoid using the anti-viral and simply states that the effects of Tamiflu on the unborn baby and nursing infant has not as yet been established.
If you are pregnant and concerned about the safety of using Tamiflu, it is best to discuss your concerns with your doctor. While researching these issues are an important part of informed consent, your doctor should explain complex medical terms and aspects to you. Do not always believe material you read on the internet, especially the calls by some websites and blogs to avoid using anti-virals in swine flu infection. Your doctor will assist you in making the best decision, both for yourself and your baby while considering all the medical implications of the current pandemic.