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Pregnant Women Worst Hit By Flu Virus Due To ‘Strong Immune System Response’

It has long been known that pregnant women are some of the worst hit when it comes to the flu virus, however new research has revealed the real reason why.

A pregnant woman’s immune system goes into overdrive when it comes in contact with the virus – an usually strong response that explains why pregnant women get sicker from the flu than healthy adults.

Until now, it's generally believed that pregnancy weakens the immune system to keep it from attacking the growing foetus, according to the study jointly carried out by Stanford University School of Medicine and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital, Stanford.


But a new study, published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is the first to examine the reactions of immune cells taken from pregnant women to influenza viruses, including the H1N1 strain that caused the 2009 flu pandemic.

The research showed that it’s actually because your immune system overreacts inpregnancy.


‘We were surprised by the overall finding,’ the study's senior author, Dr. Catherine Blish said. ‘We now understand that severe influenza in pregnancy is a hyperinflammatory disease rather than a state of immunodeficiency.

‘This means that treatment of flu in pregnancy might have more to do with modulating the immune response than worrying about viral replication.’


‘If our finding ends up bearing out in future studies, it opens the possibility that we can develop new immune-modulating treatment approaches in the setting of severe influenza, especially in pregnant women,’ said Alexander Kay, MD, instructor in pediatric infectious diseases and the study’s lead author.

The best way to have a healthy pregnancy is to try to prevent the flu altogether. The authors of the study noted that it is very important for pregnant women to vaccinate against the virus to avoid this inflammatory response.

If you get the flu while pregnant, see your GP if you’re worried about your symptoms. Have plenty of bed rest and keep an eye on your temperature. If it’s over 38 degrees Celsius, then you are showing signs of having a fever.

‘If you do have a temperature, you can take paracetemol,’ says Gill Adgie, regional head of Royal College of Midwives. ‘This is safe for pregnant women to take and will help reduce your fever.

Are you planning to get the flu vaccine? Let us know below.

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