Women with swine flu 13 times more likely to suffer critical illness if they are pregnant

Mar 18, 2010

Pregnant women in Australia and New Zealand who had swine flu were 13 times more likely to be admitted to hospital with a critical illness, according to research published in the British Medical Journal today.

The authors conclude that 11% of mothers and 12% of babies died as a result of being admitted to intensive care with . However they emphasise that given the small numbers included in their research, there are limits to the conclusions that can be drawn from the results.

It has already been established that pregnant women are at a higher risk of developing complications. The recent was the first "to occur in an era of modern obstetric and intensive care management", says the study.

The research describes what happened to pregnant women with swine flu who were admitted to intensive care units (ICU) in Australia and New Zealand during the winter of 2009.

The authors, led by Dr Ian Seppelt from the Australian and New Zealand Intensive Care (ANZIC) Influenza Investigators in collaboration with the Australasian Maternity Outcomes Surveillance System, assessed the data relating to all women with swine flu who were pregnant or who had given birth in the last 28 days and were admitted to an ICU in Australia or New Zealand between 1 June and 31 August 2009.

During the study period, 209 women of child-bearing age (15 to 44) were admitted to an ICU with confirmed swine flu. Sixty-four of these (30.6%) were either pregnant or had recently given birth, 57 were admitted to an ICU in Australia and 7 to an ICU in New Zealand.

The results show that women who were more than 20 weeks pregnant were 13 times more likely to be admitted to an ICU than non-pregnant women who had swine flu. Forty-four (68.7%) of the women had to be put on ventilators to assist with breathing and of these, nine women (14.1%) needed further assistance to help oxygen reach their heart and lungs.

Overall seven (11%) of the mothers and seven (12%) of the babies died and Dr Seppelt argues that "although a mortality of 11% seems low when compared to usual outcomes of respiratory failure in intensive care … a maternal morality of 11% is high when compared with any other obstetric condition."

The authors highlight the fact that none of the women in the study had been immunised against seasonal flu despite recommendations that pregnant women should be immunised.

In an accompanying editorial, Dr Stephen Lapinsky from the Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, applauds the ANZIC team for their foresight and planning in investigating how swine affected and those who recently gave birth.

He says the study "provides detailed data to enhance our understanding of maternal risk as well as the maternal and neonatal outcome".

Explore further: Expert highlights research innovation and is optimistic about the future of IBS treatment

Related Stories

Lessons learned from H1N1 virus pandemic

Oct 09, 2009

A comprehensive study has revealed, for the first time, the impact of swine flu on the health of the general public in Australia and New Zealand.

Study: Swine flu poses a threat to new moms

Dec 23, 2009

(AP) -- Swine flu is not only dangerous to pregnant women, but it's a threat to new mothers too, the first study to document this risk shows. An analysis of pregnant women and new mothers who were hospitalized with swine ...

Flu drug advised for pregnant women with swine flu

May 12, 2009

(AP) -- Pregnant women should take prescription flu medicines if they are diagnosed with the new swine flu, health officials said Tuesday. So far, the swine flu has not proven to be much more dangerous than seasonal influenza, ...

Report: Pregnant women need flu shots

Sep 23, 2009

Pregnant women should be sure to get all their flu shots as soon as the vaccines become available this year to protect them against both the seasonal flu and the H1N1 (swine) flu, according to eight leading national maternal ...

Recommended for you

Ebola: Keeping patients alive as body fights back

10 hours ago

People who shared an apartment with the first U.S. Ebola patient are emerging from quarantine healthy. And while Thomas Eric Duncan died and two U.S. nurses were infected caring for him, there are successes, ...

User comments : 0