Is it safe to get vaccinated for the flu while you're pregnant? I'm starting to wonder the opposite -- is it safe not to get vaccinated while pregnant? A pregnant woman caught the flu and miscarried, and now she's fighting for her life. Leslie Creekmore was almost 20 weeks along when she and her husband, Chris, came down with the flu. She was hospitalized right away, but her condition worsened and she lost the baby within days. Her right lung collapsed this past weekend. Leslie chose to postpone getting a flu shot for the same reason countless other women have: She read that the shot could be harmful during the first trimester of pregnancy.
Chris says he and his wife took her pregnancy health very seriously and searched for the best advice. Somewhere they came across advice to avoid getting a flu shot during the first trimester. They talked it over with Leslie's OB-GYN, who agreed. In other words, they did what you're supposed to do: Read up on the research and discuss with your own doctor.
Chris says he doesn't blame his doctor at all. But he does now wish they hadn't postponed the shot. Another doctor not treating Leslie but familiar with her case agrees she should have had that shot sooner. "If she had had the flu vaccine, she probably wouldn't be here in this state," says OB-GYN Dr. Rosanna Gray-Swain.
The US Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control recommend women getting a flu vaccine at any point in their pregnancy, even the first trimester. Doctors did used to postpone the flu shot until after a pregnant woman's first trimester, but the latest research shows that the vaccine is safe during the first weeks.
It's scary -- there's so much medical advice out there, and you can't always be sure your doctor is up to date on the latest research. It's smart to double-check any advice you read and look at the dates to see if any newer studies contradict it. And as awkward as it may feel, it's okay to challenge your doctor on their opinions. How is that supposed to occur to you, though, if you're both in agreement on something?!?
Since Leslie has been unconscious, she doesn't yet know that she miscarried, and Chris dreads telling her. She was pregnant with a girl. I just hope Leslie survives and is someday healthy enough to try again for another baby.
In the meantime, Chris has set up a website to raise funds to cover Leslie's health care. And he's sending out the message for all expecting parents: Don't delay that flu shot.
How much do you know about pregnancy and flu vaccines?
Image via Chris Creekstone