The Truth About Pregnancy and Flu Shots
Pregnant women may experience more severe flu symptoms than when not pregnant. Pregnancy stresses the immune system, puts more work on the heart and lungs, and increases the risk of hospitalization from pneumonia and respiratory infections. Pregnant women with the flu have a much higher mortality rate. Unborn babies may be born prematurely, be at risk for stillbirth, and present at very low birth weights.
Flu shots, or vaccines, are created by scientists each new season to protect you from the most harmful virus infection. The flu shot from last year will not be effective against the new strain of the flu season. Your injection will protect you from the virus in about 2 weeks after administration.
You and your unborn baby cannot catch the flu from a flu shot. The virus is dead, or inactivated, and is injected with a small needle under the skin. Your immune system activates and you may experience mild flu symptoms, but this reaction is your body’s way of recognizing the shape of the virus and creating antibodies. This is a natural process the body uses to create an immunity to the live virus.
The flu virus spreads infection in the nose, throat and lungs. When an infected person sneezes or coughs, the droplets of fluid spray through the air and are breathed in by another person. The virus can also live for a short time on surfaces or hands, and a person is infected on contact.
Newborns are highly susceptible to the flu as their immune systems are not fully developed. The flu can lead to more complicated problems resulting in hospitalization.
Your unborn baby will share your immune bodies after birth. The baby is protected from contracting the flu in the hospital staff and from well-meaning visitors.
You should not be vaccinated if you are allergic to chicken eggs. The preparation for the vaccine contains an egg-based culture. If you have had a severe reaction to the flu vaccine in the past, you should consult your healthcare provider to make an informed decision. If you have a fever, or are experiencing an illness, you should wait until the symptoms have subsided before receiving a flu vaccine. Never use the flu vaccine in the form of a nasal spray, it contains a live virus and is prohibited in pregnant women.
If you still don’t feel sure about getting a flu shot, check out the recommendations from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American College of Nurse Midwives (ACNM), the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), and consult with your healthcare provider.