What You Need to Know About Pregnancy & the Flu Shot

flu shotAt my second doctor's appointment, when I was only about eight weeks pregnant, my midwife told me that I should get a flu shot -- that day. I quietly mumble-asked her if it was safe, not wanting to insult her expertise, and she chirped, "Oh, yeah," as she pricked me in the arm with a needle.

Being the semi-neurotic person that I am, that day I spoke with a million people and Googled for hours on end, and it turns out, my midwife (obviously) was right. Flu shots are perfectly fine for pregnant women, actually recommended.

Here are five things you should know about the flu shot and pregnancy.

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Why should pregnant women get a flu shot? According to the Mayo Clinic, the reason flu shots are recommended for women who are with-child is because pregnancy puts extra stress on the heart and lungs -- and it also affects the immune system. Because of this, the risk not only of getting the flu while pregnant increases, but the odds of developing serious complications, such as pneumonia and respiratory distress, does as well. These factors increase the risk of premature labor, preterm birth, and other pregnancy complications.

Flu shots can also help baby. In addition to being beneficial to expectant moms, flu shots can help protect baby after birth. Infants have a high risk of complications from the flu, but flu vaccines can't begin until 6 months. If you get a flu shot during your pregnancy, the antibodies you develop will pass through to the placenta. In turn, your baby will help to be protected from the flu.

Don't ditch other preventative actions. Your odds of catching the flu are drastically decreased if you get a flu shot, but doesn't mean you should go hugging people who already have it. Be sure to wash your hands often, drink lots of fluid, keep antibacterial gel handy, and clean often-touched surfaces frequently.

Let your doctor know if you have an egg allergy. Sometimes flu vaccinations can contain a very small amount of egg protein, which, obviously, isn't good for people with egg allergies. For the most part, it's perfectly fine to still get the shot, but the best bet is letting your health care provider know.

Request the flu shot, not the flu spray. Needles are never fun, but the nasal spray vaccine shouldn't be used on pregnant women. The shot is made from an inactivated virus, so it's okay for both mother and unborn baby at any point in pregnancy. The spray is made from a live virus, which makes it less safe during pregnancy or when you're trying to conceive.

So, all it takes is asking a few questions and taking a few precautions, but the flu shot is perfectly safe -- and advisable -- while pregnant.

Are you getting a flu shot this season?

 

Image via lu_lu/Flickr

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