Cough, sore throat, runny nose, fever, chills…sound familiar? Yep, these are symptoms of the flu, and yes…getting the flu totally sucks. Being sick with the flu can take you out for weeks, and some symptoms such as a cough, can persist for months. If the flu is not properly taken care of, it can turn into pneumonia, a potentially life threatening situation. So yeah, the flu sucks! And it sucks even more when you are pregnant. Not only are you miserable with symptoms, you are stressed out and worried about your baby. You have probably been told that during pregnancy, the flu can cause serious complications, such as premature labor, or that a high fever may hurt the baby. These issues, along with the fact that many over the counter medicines have not been proven safe for pregnancy, are a major cause for concern for every mother-to-be. Well, I don’t want you to worry any more.
The flu or influenza is a viral upper respiratory infection that hits the country in late winter. During pregnancy, physiological changes occur including a decrease in certain cells of the immune system (a weaker immune system) and a decrease in lung capacity. For a while these factors have contributed to this idea that pregnant women are more susceptible to getting sick. New research published recently, states otherwise (https://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2014/09/immune-response-turned-up–not-down–by-flu-during-pregnancy–st.html) Research is actually finding that pregnant women do not have a “weaker” immune system, but a stronger one. This stronger immune system elicits a stronger inflammatory response, and that is why it seems that the flu symptoms during pregnancy are worse. The body is putting up a massive fight to protect the baby, so preventing the flu may not be as important as monitoring and treating the inflammatory response during the flu.
So, does this mean that pregnant women are not more susceptible? Let’s have a look at some numbers: A study conducted in 2004 by MMWR reported that women in the third trimester were hospitalized at a rate or 250/100,000 pregnant women, a rate comparable to non-pregnant women who had high-risk medical conditions. Another study conducted in 2009 showed the numbers of pregnant women hospitalized with pandemic H1N1 infection were small, only 34 of 5,469 diagnosed during a four months (http://drtenpenny.com/flu-shots-in-pregnancy/). Now, I am not trying to down play the seriousness of the flu during pregnancy, I am just trying to shed light on this situation and ease some worry that a moms-to-be might have. No matter what, pregnant or not, people are going to get the flu. We just have to figure out the more effective and safest way to treat the flu during pregnancy, and I may just have the answer for you…Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).
Why use TCM to treat your flu during pregnancy? Well, first it is safe for you and your baby. Herbs used to treat the flu are usually lighter (leafs and flowers) which move the pathogen out, and tend to be much safer than herbs used to treat deep-rooted conditions. There are specific herbal formulas for pregnant women that have been used for thousands of years that treat the flu gently without harming the baby. Second, it is effective in both relieving symptoms and decreasing the duration of the sickness. This is especially true if you come in as soon as you start feeling symptoms. Lastly, many of the herbs have antiviral and antibacterial properties, and when used correctly by a trained professional (someone who has graduated from an herbal program) can work synergistically with the body to rid off the viral infection. Here are some other tips when you have the flu:
- Get plenty of rest, seriously sleep as much as you can- ask others to help you out with errands and if you have other kids, see if a friend or family member can watch them. Talk to your supervisor about sick time, and vacation time- you may need a take a few days off work.
- Drink plenty of water and avoid sugar drinks like orange juice (for vitamin C, try taking a supplement instead)
- Eat chicken and vegetable broths
- Wash your hands!!!! It is so easy!
- De-stress, stress causes weak immunity so even 10 minutes of meditation, pre-natal yoga, or deep breathing will help
- Finally- my grandma’s old tea recipe (3 times a day if needed) hot water, half a lemon, ginger, cinnamon, and honey to taste (works every time!)
- Herbs to have in your arsenal: fresh ginger, mint, and my favorite, cinnamon
Don’t panic when you get the flu. You have plenty of options when it comes to getting well.Taking the natural and holistic route is the safest for you and your baby.
By: Rhianna Weaver, January 2017