Flu season is here again. You’ve likely seen and heard a lot of encouragement to get your flu shot. Influenza vaccines are now available not only at your doctor’s office, but some workplaces even provide them.
Amid all the talk about the flu, one question I hear every year is from pregnant women, wondering whether they’re supposed to get a flu shot. Some even assume they shouldn’t get the flu shot because they are so used to their doctors and pharmacists telling them not to take certain medications while pregnant. To dispel any myths or misunderstandings about receiving the influenza vaccine while pregnant, read on.
Is the flu shot safe for pregnant women?
When we talk about the safety of medications for pregnant women, we’re actually considering two separate things: safety for the mom and safety for the baby. Many times, medications that women take routinely before or after pregnancy aren’t recommended during pregnancy because we just don’t have enough scientific data to show that the medication is safe for the baby.
The flu vaccine is different.
It has been given to millions of pregnant women over the years. As documented by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there is a significant amount of scientific evidence to show that the flu vaccine is safe for both mother and baby.
Is the flu shot recommended for pregnant women?
We know the flu vaccine is safe for both mother and baby. We also know that the flu is not.
Changes in a woman’s immune system, heart and lungs during pregnancy make a pregnant woman especially susceptible to serious illness if she were to get the flu; complications, hospitalization and even death can occur. The flu also can increase the likelihood of pregnancy complications, such as premature labor and delivery.
However, getting a flu shot during any trimester of the pregnancy can protect both mother and baby from serious illness. When an expectant mother gets a flu shot, she passes on antibodies to the baby that can protect her child for six months after birth.
These factors make getting a flu shot during pregnancy even more essential.
Other things to consider
If you are pregnant and planning to get a flu shot, here is what you can expect:
- Common side effects of the flu vaccine during pregnancy are the same as if you weren’t pregnant. These include arm soreness from the injection, headache, fever, muscle aches and nausea.
- The flu vaccine can be given during any trimester of the pregnancy, but preferably early on in the flu season.
- Pregnant women should not receive the inhaled flu vaccine. Although studies have shown no pregnancy complications even when mother received the inhaled formulation, it’s still considered safer to receive the vaccine through injection.
- Anyone who has a severe, life-threatening allergy to any component of the vaccine formulation should not receive the vaccine.
- If you have a severe allergy to eggs, talk to your doctor about whether you should receive the flu vaccine. While many people with egg allergies can safely receive the flu vaccine, extra precautions often are needed.
- Breastfeeding mothers also are encouraged to get the flu vaccine, especially since their newborn will not be able to get the flu vaccine until six months of age. By receiving the flu vaccine while nursing, mothers have the opportunity to provide added protection for their infant in the first months of life when their baby is most vulnerable.