Everyone is hyper-aware of flu symptoms right now, and since flu symptoms can be so common to other changes — like pregnancy — it can be hard to tell what's going on. The flu and early pregnancy signs that look alike can often make you feel miserable, too, so you'll want to be more aware this flu season.
As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) noted, the flu comes on abruptly — one day you're feeling fine, and the next, you're down for the count. The onset of symptoms related to early pregnancy can be similar. But there are some major differences between the two. "Since influenza is a virus, women will likely have fever, chills, body aches, coughing, or stuffy or runny nose, which would not be symptoms of pregnancy," Dr. Tami Prince, MD, OB-GYN, and Medical Director for U.S. HealthWorks tells Romper.
"Flu comes with a fever and chills, early pregnancy doesn't," Dr. Daniel Roshan, OB-GYN, tells Romper simply. "Ultimately if your period is late or missed, a home pregnancy test should be done." And while you're waiting for those results, be aware of these three signs.
It's also possible that you have the flu and you're pregnant. As BabyCenter explained, pregnancy makes you more susceptible to all kinds of unpleasant germs: "Your body naturally lowers its ability to protect you from illnesses during pregnancy so that your immune system won't reject your baby. Meanwhile, your heart and lungs work harder to supply blood and oxygen to you and your baby, and your lungs have to function in a smaller space because of pressure from your growing belly. All of this contributes to stress to your body, making you more vulnerable to illness in general."
Unfortunately, because pregnancy can strain the heart and lungs, catching the flu is more dangerous when you're expecting, BabyCenter continued: "Pregnant women who get the flu are at risk for serious complications that could require hospitalization, and their babies are at higher risk of not growing enough in the womb." Pneumonia is the biggest threat, as it can put you at greater risk for preterm labor.
It's worth noting that plenty of expecting moms get the flu and don't develop any complications, but even an uncomplicated case of the flu is pretty awful when you're pregnant. That's why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends all moms-to-be get the flu shot during flu season, regardless of their trimester, as Tatnai Burnett, M.D., explained on the Mayo Clinic website. A flu shot during pregnancy doesn't just reduce your odds of getting the flu, it also helps to prevent fetal health issues, as "having a fever caused by the flu early in pregnancy might increase the risk of fetal birth defects." This protection even extends beyond birth, because while infants are especially vulnerable to severe flu symptoms, childhood flu vaccines can't be administered until a baby reaches 6 months of age. "If you have a flu shot during pregnancy, the antibodies you develop will pass through the placenta and breast milk, if you're breast-feeding. These antibodies help protect your baby from the flu after birth," Dr. Burnett said.
Of course, before you start thinking about how the flu will affect your pregnancy, you need to figure out if you're pregnant in the first place (or just under the weather). These symptoms are signs of both.