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You are here: Home - Pregnancy - Pregnancy Health & Fitness

Should Pregnant Women Get the Flu Shot

by Dianna Graveman | November 14, 2011 8:05 AM
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Fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, exhaustion. It's that time of year again. But if you're pregnant or have a little one, flu season brings with it another draining side effect - worry. Many new or expectant mothers ask "Should I get a flu shot if I'm pregnant? Will it hurt my baby? How old should my toddler be before he gets his first flu shot?"

Turns out, there is really little cause for all that worry. According to Health.com, studies scheduled to be presented at the October 2011 meeting of the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) indicate the flu vaccine will not cause a miscarriage, and it may even protect your new baby from getting the flu for several months after birth.

Once your baby is born, he or she should not receive a flu vaccination until after six months. So up until then, your baby is susceptible. This is particularly worrisome if you give birth during what is typically considered "flu season" (fall through early spring), because infants can get pretty sick with the flu and may require hospitalization. Sometimes, in very young babies, the flu can even be fatal. Pregnant women who receive the shot, according to the IDSA, provide some protection for their babies up to six months after birth -- at which time, the baby is old enough to receive the vaccine himself.

The ISDA study also found no known link between the seasonal flu vaccine and miscarriage. However, the findings are considered preliminary until they are published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

Experts at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) agree. According to the website (www.cdc.gov), catching the flu can be dangerous for pregnant women because of changes in the heart, lungs, and immune system. Pregnant women who have the flu may also be at risk of premature labor. The best way to protect yourself is to get a flu shot as soon as it becomes available. However, pregnant women should not receive the nasal spray vaccine, according to the CDC.

If, in spite of precautions, you suspect you have come down with the flu while pregnant, contact your medical provider. He or she may be able to prescribe an antiviral medicine and will probably suggest you take acetaminophen to reduce fever.

Once your child is six months old, the best protection you can provide is a flu vaccine. The CDC reports that flu is especially dangerous if your child has a long-term illness or a condition like asthma, even if it is a mild case or is controlled with medicine. About 20,000 children under five are hospitalized each year with the flu or from complications like pneumonia that develop from the flu.

Influenza can be easy to catch and difficult to avoid during cold and flu season, since the virus is spread when people sneeze, cough, or talk. Any family excursion during these months can put you, your unborn baby, or your toddler at risk. If you are pregnant or have young children, try to avoid large public crowds or stay away from others who are sick, wash your hands often, avoid touching your face, clean household surfaces with a disinfectant, cover your coughs, and throw tissues away immediately. The best protection for you and your children, however, is probably still a flu vaccine, even if you're pregnant. According to the CDC, flu vaccines are produced under strict safety measures and will not harm an expectant mother or her unborn baby, and may even provide very important protection for the first six months of life. As always, talk with your medical provider about any additional concerns or if you are worried about potential side effects of the vaccine.

Dianna Graveman is a St. Louis writer, editor, educator, and mother of three. Her work has appeared in many print and online publications. Visit her website at 2RiversCommunications.com or her blog at DiannaGraveman.com.

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