The Importance of the Flu Vaccine During Pregnancy
Are you about to be a mother? Congratulations! Pregnancy is both an exciting and somewhat nerve-wracking time as you begin to navigate the world from a different perspective, thinking about the health and safety of your new baby. More than likely, you already understand that what you put into your body could affect the baby, both good and bad. What if there was a way to help protect your baby after birth from a potentially serious illness, and even protect yourself? Thankfully, there is: the flu shot.
Why is the flu shot important?
During pregnancy, a woman’s body undergoes many changes, more than simply a new baby bump. The immune system is typically not as strong, and other changes to the heart and lungs make pregnant women more susceptible to serious illness as a result of the flu, often resulting in hospitalization. Not to mention, a common flu symptom is a fever which could cause neural tube defects or other issues to a developing baby.
Pregnant women who receive the flu shot have shown a reduced risk of flu-associated acute respiratory infection. It also aids in protecting your baby from the flu for several months after birth, covering much of the time he or she is too young to receive the vaccine directly. There have been several studies to show the effectiveness of the flu shot in pregnant women, supporting the importance of receiving the vaccine.
Is the vaccine and its components safe during pregnancy?
Yes! The flu shot has been the center of several studies to verify the safety for pregnant women and unborn babies. Pregnant women should only get the flu shot, however, and not the nasal spray vaccine, or live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV). Although safe, if you have concerns regarding thimerosal and wish to avoid it, there is a thimerosal-free flu vaccine available, but it will need to be requested specifically with your physician.
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that all pregnant women receive the flu vaccine during any trimester due to the danger the flu virus poses. Multiple studies have shown that receiving a flu shot does not increase the risk of miscarriage, however there is an ongoing study looking into those who received two consecutive vaccines in the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons which did produce an increased risk in the 28 days following the second vaccine. Any concerns you have should be discussed with your doctor.
The safety of the flu vaccine for pregnant women is evaluated each year and followed closely using the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), and research studies between the CDC and nine health care organizations are conducted and monitored to provide constant, up-to-date data.
Are there any side effects when receiving the vaccine during pregnancy?
Side effects following the flu shot for pregnant women are no different than those for everyone. Typically, these are mild and include:
- Soreness, redness and/or swelling from the injection
- Slight Fever
- Muscle Aches
They will usually begin shortly after receiving the shot and last for 1-2 days. Rarely, patients will experience a severe allergic reaction to the vaccine, so if you have any life-threatening allergies to any of the ingredients, it is recommended you do not receive the shot regardless of pregnancy.
Those with egg allergies that simply result in hives after exposure can still receive the typical vaccine, but if the allergy is considered life-threatening, it should be administered in a medical setting and supervised by a health care provider who can recognize and manage any severe allergic reaction should one occur. Again, discuss any concerns with your physician so the safest decision can be made.
Where can pregnant women get vaccinated?
Women who have never had an adverse reaction to previous vaccines can visit any licensed and approved location providing flu shots they desire. You may receive one during a regular prenatal check-up, or from one of many other options, such as at work, a pharmacy, supermarket, or one of our area Midwest Express Clinic locations.
During pregnancy, decisions that affect your health and wellness become even more important as they will affect your growing child. Help your baby start out on the right foot and get protected with the flu shot today.