The flu is an illness caused by a flu virus, and it can affect your nose, throat, and lungs. The flu is different than the common cold and requires a different remedy. Tamiflu is one prescription drug used to treat or prevent the flu.

When you’re pregnant, there are special considerations when it comes to using a drug. Is it safe for you to take? Is it really important to control your flu during pregnancy? What are the side effects of this drug for you and your growing baby? You may have a lot of questions because you’re taking care of two now, and we have the answers.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) labels Tamiflu as pregnancy category C. This means that a pregnant woman should only take Tamiflu if the benefit outweighs the potential risk to the pregnancy and developing child. There’s not a lot of information about the use of Tamiflu during pregnancy, but the available information suggests there is not a major risk to the development of your fetus if you use this drug to treat or prevent the flu during pregnancy.

Side effects can happen when you take Tamiflu. The more common side effects of Tamiflu include:

  • stomach pain
  • diarrhea
  • nausea
  • vomiting

You may find some side effects are more bothersome during pregnancy. The side effects may go away within a few days, and you can also try taking Tamiflu with food to help reduce stomach upset. If the side effects bother you or don’t go away, talk to your doctor.

The more serious side effects of Tamiflu are rare, but they can happen. They include skin and allergic reactions. Symptoms can include:

  • rash or hives
  • blistering and peeling skin
  • blisters or sores in your mouth
  • itching
  • swelling of your face, eyes, lips, tongue, or throat
  • trouble breathing
  • chest pain or tightness
  • confusion
  • difficulty talking
  • shaky movements
  • seizures
  • hallucinations (hearing voices or seeing things that are not real)

If you experience any of these symptoms, stop taking Tamiflu and contact your doctor immediately.

Having the flu during pregnancy is considered a high-risk condition. You’re more likely to experience severe illness from the flu when you’re pregnant. This is because of changes that happen in your immune system, heart, and lungs during pregnancy. You’re also at an increased risk of complications from the flu, such as hospitalization or even death. Further, you may be at higher risk for serious problems for your unborn baby, including birth defects and premature labor and delivery.

Keep reading: Flu during pregnancy may increase child’s risk of bipolar disorder »

A common symptom of the flu is fever. Having a fever during the first trimester of your pregnancy doubles the risk of certain birth defects. Fever also increases your risk of premature labor and delivery. If you have a fever during labor, there’s a risk that your baby will have seizures and other dangerous brain conditions.

Learn more: Flu during pregnancy: Risks, treatments, and other information »

Leaving the flu untreated may be more dangerous than using flu drugs during pregnancy. Balancing the risks and benefits of using Tamiflu or other drugs during pregnancy is something that you need to discuss with your doctor. They may suggest other options that are better for you.

The bottom line is, getting the flu under control as soon as possible is extremely important during pregnancy. The best way to control the flu during pregnancy is not to get it at all. Perhaps the most important thing you can do to protect yourself from the flu is get the flu shot.

The flu shot is a safe way to protect you and your baby from serious illness and complications from the flu. Millions of pregnant women have had the flu shot for many years. When you get the flu shot during pregnancy, it can protect both you and your baby from the flu for six months after birth.

In addition to the flu shot, you can take certain actions to help prevent getting the flu.

Pregnancy is a time when you should be extra careful to maintain your health. If you don’t feel well, describe your symptoms to your doctor. This will help your doctor distinguish if you have the common cold or something more serious, like the flu. Also tell your doctor about any other medications you take, including prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, and supplements.

If you and your doctor decide that Tamiflu is an option to help prevent or control the flu during your pregnancy, be sure you take it exactly as directed. You may start to feel better once you start taking it. Still, you shouldn’t skip doses or stop taking the medication until you have taken all that your doctor prescribed. Call your doctor if you don’t feel better after finishing your course of Tamiflu.

Finally, it’s important for you to remember that Tamiflu can fight the virus causing the flu, but it’s not a substitute for getting your yearly flu shot. Taking the right measures to prevent flu infection during pregnancy is your best bet.