By Laura Huggins, MD, Family Medicine with Obstetrics
Getting the flu vaccine is an annual ritual of Fall you may be tempted to skip when you’re pregnant—you’re concerned about your baby’s health. Maybe you’re worried about getting unnecessary shots, or you think it could do more harm than good. In actuality, it is an essential part of prenatal care.
Flu vaccination is recommended for all pregnant women because the immune system changes during pregnancy, putting women at increased risk of serious illness and complications if they get the flu. Flu vaccination performs double duty by protecting both pregnant women and their fetuses; babies cannot be vaccinated against the flu until they are six months old but they receive antibodies from their vaccinated mother. Getting a flu shot during pregnancy helps protect your baby until they can be vaccinated directly. The CDC reports that millions of pregnant women safely receive a flu vaccine every year. To date, few adverse effects have been reported and it is recommended for most women who are pregnant.
One Bad Virus
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists (ACOG) still recommends annual flu shots and the evidence supports flu vaccine safety during pregnancy. The CDC recommends a flu shot during any trimester as a safe and effective way to protect yourself and your unborn baby. Pregnancy not only makes the flu worse, but it also places the unborn fetus at risk of catching it and developing serious complications.
As a virus, there’s often little that can be done to treat the flu once it’s caught—prevention is key. The flu shot teaches your immune system to respond with antibodies to the flu virus.
The flu vaccine will not prevent COVID-19 but will reduce the overall impact of respiratory illnesses. Vaccination prevents illnesses that lead to unnecessary medical visits and hospitalizations. It is important to lessen the burden on the healthcare system during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Wondering if you’re an exception to the rule and should skip the flu vaccine? You should let your OB provider know if you have a history of egg allergies, a known allergy to egg protein, or any severe reactions to vaccines in the past. Flublock is an influenza vaccine that is egg-free and is approved for those 18 and older. There may be other reasons your doctor or midwife recommends against the flu vaccine, although these vaccinations are safe and healthy for most people. Some people do experience mild side effects afterwards, such as soreness, swelling, redness, headaches, fatigue, muscle aches, fever, or nausea. These side effects may last for one to two days after the shot and are typically very mild.
If you’re ready for a flu vaccine or want to discuss it with a medical provider, our doctors and certified nurse practitioners can help. For most people, including pregnant women, flu vaccines are safe, effective, and an important way to prevent a harmful communicable illness that can lead to hospitalization.