Swine Flu Poses Special Threat For Pregnant Women

PHOTO Melissa and Jeremy Dameron are shown.

When pregnant 28-year-old Melissa Dameron of Indianapolis, Ind. first began to develop flu-like symptoms, she never suspected that she would soon face an illness that would threaten both her life and that of her unborn baby.

Last September, she and her husband were in the middle of a marathon road trip, driving from Florida to Virginia to visit her in-laws, and then continuing to New England to see her husband's family.

At first, Dameron wrote her symptoms off as a combination of morning sickness and the sniffles.

"At the end of the week I developed a cough, and I really just thought I was getting a cold," Dameron said.

But before long, it became clear that the trip would be interrupted. Dameron's cough turned nasty, and by Saturday night she couldn't keep anything down.

"The coughing sort of inspired the rest of the food to come up," she said. "I was huddled in blankets trying to make it to the next stop."

When the symptoms became too severe for her to bear, Dameron went to a clinic in Rhode Island. Doctors there directed her to the Women's and Infant's Hospital in Providence.

VIDEO: Dr. Denise Jamison explains how the vaccine can affect pregnant women.

By this point, her condition had become life threatening. Once she was at the hospital, doctors learned that her blood oxygen levels had dropped dangerously low.

"When you get sick but are also growing a baby, you're short of breath anyway," she said. "I didn't quite think anything of it but apparently it was really bad."

She had swine flu and had developed pneumonia on top of it, and doctors immediately began treating her for both. During her 10-day hospitalization, Dameron would spend three of those days in the intensive care unit, or ICU.

"I didn't feel afraid for myself until after I was pretty much recovered," she said. "And I look back and what I'd gone through... and now I see exactly how scary it really was."

Seventeen-year-old Victoria Penn of Philadelphia, Pa., found herself faced with a similar situation. Penn, who was pregnant at the time, first started feeling sick on an August morning.

"I tried to sleep on it," she said. "At first I thought it was just me having a little cold."

By the next morning, she said, she was vomiting uncontrollably. It was at this point when she knew something was wrong, since during her seven months of pregnancy she had not once experienced morning sickness.

Swine Flu While Pregnant: A Nightmare

She called her aunt, who rushed her to a nearby hospital before she was transferred to Philadelphia's Pennsylvania Hospital.

"I never felt like it before," she said.

Penn, too, received immediate treatment for both flu and pneumonia and ended up in the ICU before recovering.

"[The pain] was so bad that I couldn't talk to the doctor. I just kept on crying," she said. "I was just scared that something was going to happen to my baby."

By all accounts, the experiences of Dameron and Penn were unpleasant ones. But among other pregnant women who have fallen ill with the swine flu, they are among the lucky ones.

Last week, officials with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that through late August, about 100 pregnant women in the United States have required hospitalization in the ICU for infection with the new strain of the H1N1 virus. Of these women, 28 so far have died due to complications directly associated with the virus.

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