Worrying about your baby often begins before your baby is even conceived. You take your prenatal vitamins, you exercise, you try to eat a healthy diet, and you cut out alcohol and caffeine just so that your baby has the best shot at life from the word go. However, sometimes the unexpected happens. You get sick in early pregnancy, or you might even fall ill at the same time in which you conceived. Does that pose a particular danger to your baby? For instance, can having the flu when you conceive affect your baby?
It should be noted that conception during a course of the flu is exceedingly uncommon. Not only is it a period of time when sexual activity is likely decreased because no one feels up to having sex when they're barely able to move, the flu virus actually affects both male sperm, as per a German study, as well as altering the quality and texture of the cervical mucus, according to PLOS, making conception challenging. Also, women are more prone to contracting infections during ovulation than during other parts of the menstrual cycle due to the decreased immune response required to conceive, making you more susceptible to flu virus, reported LiveScience, elevating the need for the flu vaccine if you're TTC.
Getting the flu sucks. There's no two ways about it. You're miserable, achy, hot and cold with chills and sweating, all at the same time. You don't want to eat or look at another human being. You just want to chew your Tamiflu and chug your Gatorade while taking all of the Motrin and watching the Great British Baking Show all d*mn day. It's difficult to even consider the fact that while you're sick AF, your body might be busy constructing another human out of nothing more than a tiny bit of genetic material and all of the yellow number six from the Gatorade. (Or blue number 15 if you're into that flavor. I'm not questioning your choices, even if lemon lime is the only flavor you should drink.)
However, there are possible complications from having the flu in early pregnancy, namely, neural tube defects like spina bifida and microcephaly, according to the March of Dimes. But what about very early pregnancy? Can having the flu when you conceive affect your baby? Per the March of Dimes, neural tube defects are defects that happen while the baby is in the very beginnings of development. The neural tube is one of the first bits of the embryo that forms, and therefore is the most likely to be altered by the presence of an exterior influence like influenza or high fevers related to influenza.
Thankfully, as per the article, this is pretty rare. Also, there are myriad drugs on the market that serve to shorten your flu or decrease the effects of the symptoms, which can hopefully mitigate any possible negative outcomes which could arise. These antivirals are not only recommended for use in any trimester of pregnancy, they are considered safe and effective, noted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
It should be noted that while the flu this year seems especially worrisome, it's not mutating like it has in previous seasons, and is responding to the antiviral medications. Also, contrary to previous reports that put the vaccine's effectiveness against this strain of flu at a mere 10 percent, per the CDC, it's more like a 35 percent rate of effectiveness in preventing the flu, and it goes a long way at attenuating the virus if you do contract it, so it's even more important to get the jab. There's no way to prevent the flu 100 percent of the time, but you can minimize your risk with frequent hand washing, avoiding touching your eyes, nose, or mouth when you're out in public, and sanitizing surfaces.
Try not to worry — you have enough on your plate when you're TTC or pregnant as it is. Take proper precautions and let it be.
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