Can I Take Tamiflu While Pregnant?

Pregnant person with the flu

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Winter presents a host of questions and challenges when you're pregnant (like whether or not your winter coat is going to zip over your growing belly). But one of the more pressing ones is how you're going to stay healthy during cold and flu season.

Since a person's immune system is weakened during pregnancy, it's important to take extra precautions to avoid catching a nasty virus. But sometimes it just can't be helped and you come down with the flu. Tamiflu (oseltamivir) is one of the most commonly prescribed antiviral medications for treating the flu—and experts say that if you catch the flu while carrying a little one, it's still your best option.

While Tamiflu is a good option for treating the flu, the flu vaccine is the best way to prevent it. "Seasonal influenza is more dangerous in pregnant and postpartum women," says Nathan Fox, MD, OBGYN, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist and host of the Healthful Woman podcast. "The flu vaccine has been used in pregnancy for many years and is considered safe in all trimesters. It is not associated with an increased risk of miscarriage or birth defects. It is not a live vaccine so it is not possible to get the flu from the vaccine."

Even if you get the flu vaccine, you do still have a slight chance of catching the flu. Here we will discuss what Tamiflu is, how it works, and potential side effects it may present.

What Is Tamiflu?

Tamiflu is a prescription antiviral medication, which means it works with your body to help fight off a virus—in this case seasonal influenza, known mainly as the flu.

"It inhibits an enzyme called neuraminidase. This enzyme helps the virus escape from cells so that it can replicate and infect other cells," explains Aaron Emmel, PharmD, MHA, BCPS, a pharmacotherapy specialist and director of educational programs at PharmacyTechScholar.com. "Inhibiting this enzyme results in the virus remaining trapped in cells, limiting its ability to proliferate and damage other cells."

There are two scenarios in which Tamiflu is typically taken: to treat the flu after infection, at which time it can reduce the severity and length of symptoms, or to prevent infection after you've been exposed. "If given within 48 hours of exposure, it can reduce the risk of getting the flu from a close contact," says Dr. Fox.

Is it Safe to Take Tamiflu During Pregnancy?

Tamiflu is not only safe to take during pregnancy, but it is strongly recommended if you catch the flu. "Tamiflu is actually more strongly recommended for pregnant people than nonpregnant people due to the increased risk of severe illness," says Dr. Fox. "It will lower the risk of severe illness and hospitalization, reduce symptoms and shorten the time to feeling back to normal."

What's more, Tamiflu is the preferred treatment for pregnant women with suspected or confirmed influenza, according to the CDC. "While there are several antiviral medications available for the treatment of influenza, Tamiflu is the best studied in pregnant and postpartum women," says Dr. Emmel. "Multiple observational studies have suggested that treatment does not lead to adverse health outcomes for the mother or the fetus."

Every pregnancy is different. Be sure to consult with a healthcare provider about your circumstances if you have any questions about taking Tamiflu while pregnant.

What If I Take Tamiflu Before Realizing I'm Pregnant?

Since Tamiflu isn't harmful to a pregnant individual or their baby, there's no need to worry if you take it before realizing you're pregnant.

"Dosing during pregnancy is the same as for the non-pregnant population," adds Dr. Emmel. "Since treatment is recommended for pregnant people, one should be reassured if they find out they are pregnant after starting the treatment." 

Safety Precautions

There are no additional safety precautions that someone who is expecting needs to take when they are taking Tamiflu. But as with any medication, there is the potential for side effects.

"The most common side effects are gastrointestinal in nature, so nausea, upset stomach, and vomiting," Dr. Emmel says. Since pregnancy itself can also cause similar GI woes, Dr. Emmel recommends trying to stay well hydrated in order to prevent unpleasant symptoms.

Other common side effects include nosebleeds, headache, and fatigue, while rarer ones include allergic or skin reactions.

A Word from Verywell

Tamiflu is not only safe to take during pregnancy, but it is the recommended treatment for expectant parents who have been exposed to or have contracted the flu. The proper dosage will vary depending on if you are trying to treat or prevent the flu, so be sure to speak with a healthcare provider about your options.

5 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  3. Ghulmiyyah LM, Alame MM, Mirza FG, Zaraket H, Nassar AH. Influenza and its treatment during pregnancy: A review. Journal of Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine. 2016;8(4). doi:10.3233/npm-15814124

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Recommendations for Obstetric Health Care Providers Related to Use of Antiviral Medications in the Treatment and Prevention of Influenza. Updated November 30, 2020.

  5. US Food and Drug Administration. Tamiflu: Consumer Questions and Answers. Updated November 14, 2017.

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