Pregnancy, Viral Illnesses, and You

For women considering becoming gestational surrogates or who may be already starting on the process, the thought of becoming ill from a virus can be frightening. These are nervous times and pregnancy is a vulnerable time. While new viruses are more difficult to fight, there are several steps all pregnant women can take to protect themselves and their little ones.

Influenza/Flu Vaccine

Currently, the best available first line of defense for the flu – still by far the most prevalent potentially dangerous virus – is to get an influenza flu vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends pregnant women get the flu shot if they have not already as they are more likely to get sick. The CDC says that it is safe for pregnant women to receive the vaccine at any point during the pregnancy. Even though there are two types of flu vaccine, the flu shot, and nasal spray, the CDC only recommends the shot as effective for individuals who are pregnant. By receiving the vaccine, pregnant women reduce their chances of becoming severely ill as well as protecting the baby’s health in the first few months following birth before the young ones can get vaccinated themselves.

A common misconception about the flu vaccine is that the minor amount of mercury included in the vaccine can cause the baby to develop autism or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The vaccines have been thoroughly tested and examined for decades and, despite what you may have heard from some quarters, there is no scientifically viable link to these conditions. On the other hand, if the thought of mercury makes you nervous, that’s understandable. Fortunately, flu vaccines without mercury are available and considered to be equally effective by the CDC.

Personal Hygiene

There are simple additional precautions pregnant women can take, including keeping a distance from others who are sick – not to mention any social distancing guidelines that may be in effect – and frequent hand washing with soap and warm water. We have all become more aware of the benefits of thorough hand washing for at least 20 seconds. Hand sanitizer can be utilized when soap and water are not available, but it is recommended that sanitizer be only used as an alternative. Pregnant women should also engage in common sense behaviors such as refraining from sharing utensils or cups with others – even close family members – as well as keeping hands away from the face, particularly the eyes and nose. In a world forever changed by the COVID-19 viral pandemic, it is important more than ever to practice good personal hygiene, especially for pregnant women.

Symptoms and Treatment

Pregnant women should notify their doctor immediately if they become ill with flu symptoms as antiviral drugs will need to be taken as soon as possible, ideally within 48 hours of the first symptoms.

Flu symptoms include the following:

  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Runny/stuffy nose
  • Headaches
  • Body aches
  • Chills
  • Fatigue

While becoming pregnant during uncertain times can be challenging, there are many ways for surrogates to stay healthy for both themselves and the baby. Following the advice of medical professionals, getting vaccinated, and practicing good personal hygiene are the first steps to preventing illnesses and helping ensure a smoother pregnancy.