Pregnant and wondering if you should get a flu shot? The short answer is yes! Not only are you protecting yourself, you’re passing on protection to your baby.
Dr. Sue Hubbard, pediatrician and medical editor of kidsdr.com, says she sees many mothers and mothers-to-be on a weekly basis and says getting the flu shot should be a top priority for expectant mothers.
“I see many expectant mothers who are totally surprised when I ask them if they have received a flu vaccine from their OB. In fact only 1 in 7 pregnant women are being vaccinated. This may be partially due to the fact that OB’s have not routinely been vaccine providers, as we pediatricians have been, and are now becoming more aware about universal recommendations for flu vaccine in pregnancy and are ordering vaccine for their patients to receive during routine obstetrical visits. Flu vaccine is safe throughout pregnancy.”
The flu vaccine not only offers protection to moms-to-be, but it can also pass on protection to the baby once he or she is born says Dr. Alan Fleischman, March of Dimes medical director.
“The flu vaccine has been shown to be safe and effective. As an added bonus, during pregnancy, mothers pass on their immunity, protecting babies in those early months of life,” said Fleischman in a March of Dimes news release. “We urge all pregnant women, and women who expect to become pregnant, to get their influenza immunization because the flu poses a serious risk of illness and even death during pregnancy.”
A woman’s immune system changes while she is pregnant. Her heart and lungs may become compromised making her more likely to experience dangerous complications if she gets the flu. During the 2009 H1N1 outbreak, one out of every 20 deaths from N1H1 was a pregnant woman.
Despite this increased risk, only half of all expectant mothers received the vaccination during last year’s flu season, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) .
The CDC says getting a flu shot is the first and most important step in protecting against flu. The flu shot given during pregnancy has been shown to protect both the mother and her baby (up to 6 months old) from flu. It also emphasizes that women who are pregnant should not use the nasal spray vaccine.
It adds that there have been no reports of side effects in pregnant women or their babies, but that women should only get the inactivated vaccine.
Pregnant women can take additional steps to protect themselves from the flu by:
▪ Staying home when ill and avoiding contact with other people who are sick
▪ Coughing or sneezing into a tissue or your arm, not your hands
▪ Avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
▪ Washing your hands with soap and water often.
▪ Using hand sanitizers at work or in public places.
▪ Thoroughly washing dishes and utensils.
▪ Avoiding sharing dishes, utensils, drinking glasses or toothbrushes.
Anyone who lives with or is in close contact with a pregnant woman should also be immunized.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecology recommends that all pregnant women get a flu shot. So, if you’re an expectant mother, or thinking about becoming pregnant, talk to your OB/GYN about getting a flu shot before the season begins.