The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that most individuals receive an influenza (flu) shot between October and late March during flu season. You may be wondering if the flu shot is safe to get while pregnant. Not only is it safe, it is essential that pregnant women get the flu shot because of the changes in their bodies that make them prone to infection. Once you are 32 weeks into your pregnancy your immune system is suppressed to protect your fetus from being rejected from your body. This leaves pregnant women susceptible to many illnesses like the flu.
Pregnant women should only receive the shot and never the nasal spray vaccine. The shot contains an inactive virus while the nasal spray uses a live virus which is more risky for pregnant women and women trying to become pregnant. Check with your doctor before getting the shot if you have had any severe reactions in the past. While some reactions are not related to the shot, it is always good to take extra precaution. You may need to wait in Dr. Ayalon’s office for at least thirty minutes after receiving a shot in order to monitor your reactions. The flu shot offered for 2012-2013 offers protection from the seasonal flu and swine flu.
Catching the flu during your pregnancy is cause for concern since your suppressed immune system increases the severity of flu symptoms. A case of the flu in pregnancy can lead to pneumonia, hospitalization, or even death. During pregnancy, your heart and lungs are put under extra stress, and your immune system will not work as hard to rid your body of the virus. The flu can affect your baby as well, causing complications like low birth weight, preterm birth, and miscarriage.
A simple way to help prevent catching the flu is getting a flu shot. In a 2011 study, pregnant women who received the flu shot were almost 50% less likely to contract the virus than pregnant women who did not get the shot. The flu shot is safe to get during any trimester, and offers longer protection for your baby when received while still in the womb. Newborns should only get the shot if they are at least six months old, but if you get the shot during pregnancy, your body will develop the antibodies and pass them through the placenta to your baby. This way, you will both be protected from the virus without having to wait six months for your baby to receive a shot.
Aside from getting the vaccination for you and your baby, make sure that anyone living with you receive the shot as well. Your family and others living with you are going to be in close contact with you and your newborn. You can take other preventative action to protect yourself against catching the flu as well. Prenatal vitamins containing Vitamin C help strengthen your immune system. Don’t forget to consume your vitamins and minerals naturally through a well balanced diet, making sure to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.
If you happen to catch the flu during your pregnancy, increase your fluids intake, eat small meals spread throughout the day, get plenty of rest, and use a steamer to help facilitate ease of breathing. Make sure to monitor your temperature at least once a day and call Dr. Ayalon if your temperature gets close to 100° F. If you are less than 12 weeks or more than 38 weeks into your pregnancy, do not take any medication unless you have consulted your doctor. If you experience persistent chest pain, difficulty breathing, green or yellow mucus, or severe sore throat, call Dr. Ayalon immediately.
The best way to deal with the flu is prevention, so if you are pregnant make sure to get your flu shot as soon as possible to protect yourself and your baby. This will help prevent future complications and problems that can arise post-pregnancy. Contracting the flu during pregnancy is a serious hazard to you and your baby, and avoiding the flu shot isn’t worth risking your health. If you would like to get vaccinated call our office and schedule an appointment. Feel free to contact us if you experience symptoms of the flu, and if you have any questions about the flu during pregnancy or the flu vaccine.
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