Should Pregnant Women Get the Flu Vaccine?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that every person aged six months and older get the flu vaccine annually (except for those with vaccine allergies, of course).
But here’s the question: What if you’re pregnant? Children under six months should not get the flu vaccine. So is it safe for pregnant women to get vaccinated?
Should I Get Vaccinated While Pregnant?
Short answer: CDC says yes, please get your flu shot.
In fact, due to changes in the immune system, heart, and lungs during pregnancy, you may be at a greater risk of complications from the flu (including hospitalization), so it’s a good idea to get vaccinated so you can avoid this risk.
Also, according to the CDC, by getting the flu shot, you’re protecting your baby right after they’re born.
So Is It More Important To Get A Flu Vaccine For Pregnant Mothers?
In a word, yes – and not just because it can prevent mothers from getting the flu.
Fever is one of the most common symptoms of the flu, and in pregnant women, high core body temperature can lead to defects in a baby’s nerve pathway.
“Women are strongly advised to get the flu vaccine,” says Rachel Urrutia, Assistant Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “The flu can be more severe for pregnant women than at any other time in a woman’s life. Their immune systems are less strong and their respiratory airways swell more, so they can make the flu more serious,” she says.
OK, but are there any additional precautions pregnant women should take?
The CDC, in conjunction with the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), really recommends a flu shot, rather than a nasal spray.
“The nasal spray contains a live virus,” Urrutia says. “We don’t recommend any vaccine with a live virus for pregnant women,” she says, and this isn’t necessarily because her spray can cause the flu, but because pregnant women’s immune systems are already weak, the active virus could potentially have a mild effect.
Urrutia and this is normal, but remember that some people can still be vaccinated while they have a low fever and may feel a little tired or sore even after the vaccine. “Your body creates an immune response to the vaccine,” he says. If you have a fever or experience other symptoms such as chest pain or shortness of breath, make an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible.
However, the precautions pregnant women should take are just like others – don’t get it if you’re allergic to the vaccine, or wait until you feel better if you have a fever.
In addition to vaccination, pregnant women need to take some precautions to avoid the flu. Urrutia includes things like washing your hands, covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, and staying away from other patients in your regular ways of avoiding germs.
Pregnant ladies, take care to stay safe outside from October to May (flu season).
Source: Women’s Health Mag, Should Pregnant Women Get The Flu Shot?, 2018.