Flu Shots and Pregnancy: Protecting Expectant Moms From Influenza

By:    Published: October 27, 2011

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When you're pregnant, it's important to maintain your health, not only for yourself, but for your unborn child as well. That includes eating right, taking prenatal vitamins and preventing yourself from getting sick. Pregnant women are more susceptible to illness-related complications if they do fall ill, particularly with the flu. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that pregnant women get a flu shot to protect themselves and their child from serious complications.

Why Pregnant Women Need the Flu Shot

The flu can be tough to fight off when you aren't pregnant, never mind when you are. Your immune system is compromised when you're pregnant, so you are at a higher risk of developing serious complications and being hospitalized should you contract the flu. Here's what could happen to you or your child if you don't protect yourself with a flu vaccine:

  • Your child could develop a respiratory disease.
  • Your child could be born prematurely.
  • You could get severely ill.
  • You could suffer a miscarriage.
  • You or your child could be hospitalized.
  • If severe complications from the flu do arise, they can result in death.

Is the Flu Shot Safe?

As a mother-to-be, it's natural to worry about your child and that includes worrying over the safety of a flu shot. But don't fret, the flu shot is absolutely safe for both you and your child. In the past, some physicians have thought that only pregnant women in their third trimester should get the shot, but that's not true. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends that all pregnant women get the flu shot if they are pregnant during the flu season. It's safe to get a flu shot during any trimester and some doctors even administer the shot as part of the routine pregnancy checkup. The shot is also safe for mothers who are breastfeeding.

Not only is the shot safe, but it also protects your child from the flu after birth. The antibodies will be passed through the placenta to the baby and will protect the child until two months old. Since children aren't allowed to receive flu shots until they are six months of age, so getting a flu shot while you're pregnant can provide your child with that extra protection until he or she is of age to get one.

Shot or Spray?

The flu vaccine is administered in two ways: through a regular shot and as a nasal spray. Since the nasal spray contains a live virus, some people, including pregnant women, are not allowed to take it. They must get a flu vaccine the old-fashioned way instead, which is through a flu shot.

Side Effects

The side effects from a flu shot are generally mild and include:

  • Coughing
  • Fatigue
  • Mild fever
  • Muscle aches
  • Itching, redness and soreness at the injection site

Pregnant women generally won't see side effects that differ from this. However, they are more likely to have a sore arm from the shot than women who aren't pregnant.

When to Get a Flu Shot

Flu season can start as early as October, so it's best to get a flu shot as soon as they are available in your area. After the shot, it can take up to two weeks for your body to develop antibodies, so try to get a shot before the flu season starts.

Who Else Should Get a Flu Shot?

If you live with your husband, boyfriend, parents, grandparents or have other children, they too will need to get vaccinated. Anybody that lives with you is susceptible to getting the flu and passing it on to you, so to stay on the safe side of things, get everyone in your household vaccinated as well.

Flu Prevention Tips

The flu shot is the best way to protect yourself and your child from the flu. However, there are other precautions you can take to ensure you don't get sick. Here are some of them:

  • Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze. And that doesn't mean with your hand. Always cover your nose and mouth with a tissue, or sneeze into your elbow if you don't have a tissue handy.
  • Wash your hands often. If you're out in public or at work and won't be able to get to the bathroom often, make sure you keep a bottle of hand sanitizer in your purse or on your desk.
  • Don't share eating utensils. Whether it's with others at work or at home, you never know who might have the flu.

As a mother and even a mother-to-be, you want to protect your child from the dangers of this world, including illnesses like the flu. Many mothers-to-be don't get a flu shot because they worry that it will hurt the fetus or themselves, or they simply believe they don't need it because they won't get the flu. But none of that is true. The flu shot is safe for both mother and child and is the best way to protect yourself and your unborn baby from severe complications of the flu.

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