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No question about it: Pregnant women should get the flu shot

Posted on by John J Eichenlaub, MD, FACOG

 

Updated September 6, 2018

If you're pregnant, you may be wondering whether you should get the flu shot. Is it safe for you? Is it safe for your baby? The answer is yes, pregnant women need to be protected from the seasonal flu viruses. And you should get the shot as soon as you can regardless of what trimester you're in.

CDC recommendations

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is very clear about the importance of getting a flu shot during pregnancy unless you have a severe allergy to eggs or you've had a severe reaction to a previous flu vaccination. This is because flu is more likely to cause severe illness, as well as hospitalizations and even death, in women who are pregnant.

Flu stresses your heart and lungs, and pregnancy can affect your immune system. You're more likely to develop a complication like pneumonia, which, in turn, can lead to premature labor, other health issues, or miscarriage.

You may have seen headlines from a small study suggesting a slightly higher risk of miscarriage in early pregnancy in women who received a specific strain of flu vaccine two years in a row. This research is very inconclusive and even the scientists who conducted study stress its limitations. The CDC and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology continue to recommend women at all stages of pregnancy get the flu shot to protect themselves and their babies. If you have concerns, talk with your doctor.

Get the shot rather than nasal spray

Getting a flu shot is your best protection against the flu and has been shown to protect both mother and baby up to 6 months old, according to the CDC. Millions of pregnant women have received the flu shot over many years without harm to either themselves or their babies. Be sure to get the shot, not the nasal spray, because the shot is made from an inactivated virus, making it safe for mother and baby.

When to get vaccinated

You should get the shot as soon as possible because when flu strikes is very unpredictable and can vary from season to season. In the United States, flu outbreaks can begin as early as October, most commonly peaking in January or February. Some flu activity can occur as late as May.

When to call your doctor

Should you get the flu, call your doctor right away. There are antiviral medicines to treat the flu. And any fever should be treated with Tylenol® as fever early in pregnancy can harm your baby.

Other ways to protect yourself

Although getting vaccinated is the best way to protect against the flu, remember it's always wise to practice good preventive health habits:

  • Stay away from people who are sick
  • Wash your hands frequently
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth
  • Get plenty of sleep
  • Drink fluids
  • Eat well

 | Dr's. Eichenlaub & May

John J. Eichenlaub, MD, FACOG, is an obstetrician/gynecologist with Doctors Eichenlaub and May Obstetrics & Gynecology. Medical Director at Women & Babies Hospital, Dr. Eichenlaub’s areas of expertise include da Vinci® Robotic Surgery. Education: Medical School—Case Western Reserve University; Residency: Baystate Medical Center.

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