I'm Pregnant, Will the Flu hurt my Baby?
In the first twelve weeks of your pregnancy, your baby is developing all his or her important body organs. During this time, everything that you do is very important. Staying healthy and free of infections, including the flu, is extremely important. Influenza can hurt your baby in two ways – first through fever and second through the infectious virus itself.
Many years ago a veterinary scientist conducted a series of very important experiments in which he exposed pregnant rats to slight increases in body temperature. The body temperatures were similar to those that a person might experience with the flu. He found that the babies were born with several abnormalities but usually amputations of their hands or feet. We also know that regardless of fever, many viruses break chromosomes. Damaged chromosomes can then cause of number of different serious conditions including cancer.
One year there was a bad outbreak of flu in Adelaide and we found that the number of miscarriages increased. At this time we grew the cells from one embryo whose mother had been ill with the flu and not only did the cells have badly broken chromosomes but the embryo itself was badly deformed. This woman had a friend who was pregnant at the same time and who had been visiting from interstate. The friend became ill when she returned home but did not miscarry. I met the friend a couple of years later and sadly her child was born with a serious brain abnormality that his mother attributed to her bout of flu.
There are not many thorough studies on the flu and miscarriage because it does make a difference how pregnant you are, how ill you become and how much your temperature rises. Just to be on the safe side, stay away from crowded places and sick people when you are pregnant.
You will find much more information about infections and female reproduction in my book It Takes Two, which can be ordered as a hard cover book or on-line as an e-book.