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The Importance of Getting a Flu Shot If You're Pregnant

Katlyn Joy |13, January 2014


When you're expecting, it's easy to worry about everything. You may be reluctant to take medications even when they are prescribed, you try to avoid sick people and you always buckle up in the car. But have you gotten your flu vaccine yet? Many women wonder if they can or if they should get a flu vaccine while pregnant. The simple answer is an emphatic, "Yes!"

Why Pregnant Women Should Get a Flu Shot

The best protection you can give yourself, and your baby, against the flu is the flu vaccine. The immunization will protect you from getting the flu, and will protect your baby now and for up to six months after birth as well. When you get your flu shot, your body develops antibodies and those will be passed on to your baby in utero. This is crucial to protect baby as an infant under six months of age is too young to receive a vaccination.

You should also make sure all the people around the baby get vaccinated against the flu as well, such as siblings, grandparents and all caregivers in order to decrease any risk of the virus occurring in your home or family.

Flu shots have been administered to expectant moms for many years now without any adverse reactions, so you can rest assured you are doing the best thing for baby and yourself when you protect yourself through the flu vaccine. Live flu virus is not used in the vaccination so the risk of contracting the illness through inoculation.

The flu is particularly dangerous for pregnant women because they are more vulnerable to developing serious complications due to changes in their heart and lung functions as well as their immune systems. Risks of becoming seriously ill with the flu increase in pregnancy, upping the odds of hospitalization and even death. Furthermore, when a woman becomes ill with the flu she is more likely to go into labor prematurely, which can be dangerous to baby's health.

What Can I Expect When Getting a Flu Shot?

The flu shot is available in two forms; the injectable shot or the nasal spray or LAIV. The nasal spray is not for use for pregnant women, but may be given to breastfeeding moms, however. The spray is for healthy individuals ages 2 to 49 who are not pregnant. The flu shot is safe for women at any stage of pregnancy, from first trimester to delivery time.

The shot itself it not a big deal to get, and you should only expect mild reactions following it, such as: tenderness, swelling and redness at the injection site, and less likely, muscle aches, nausea, fever and fatigue afterwards. No link has been found between getting the flu shot and miscarriage — so you can rest assured.

What Else Can I Do to Protect Myself and My Family from the Flu?

It takes a couple of weeks after the vaccination before your body begins making antibodies, so it's especially important in that window to take all necessary precautions to prevent getting the flu. Here are the recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

1. Avoid sick people. You're not being rude or unsociable; just safe especially since you have a baby on board right now.

2. Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. Carry a hand sanitizer with you wherever you go in case soap and water are not available.

3. Cover your coughs and sneezes to keep others from getting sick. If you are sick, and must be around others, consider a face mask especially when at doctor's appointments where you will encounter medically vulnerable people the most. At least, sneeze or cough into your sleeve so you don't get germs on your hands and accidentally spread your germs to everything you touch.

4. Don't touch your eyes, nose or mouth. Touching your face greatly increases the risk of getting any illnesses.

5. Stay home if you aren't feeling well. If everyone follows suite, the flu's spread will slow greatly.

6. Keep things disinfected. This is especially true if someone in the environment has been ill. Wipe down frequently touched areas or items such as doorknobs, phones, computers keyboards, remote controls, countertops and handles.

7. Take good care of yourself. Get plenty of sleep, eat healthy and be sure to stay hydrated.

When to Call the Doctor?

Call your doctor immediately if you have symptoms of the flu, such as fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, aches, vomiting or diarrhea. Go to the ER or call 911 if you have serious symptoms such as: pain in the chest, trouble breathing, severe confusion or dizziness, high fever that won't come down with pain relievers, and decreased or absent movement of baby.

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