By Laura Huggins, M.D., 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.
Your flu shot can help you prepare your immune system for the holiday season’s busy, hectic lifestyle. It works with your body to provide a necessary boost during pregnancy while you’re more vulnerable to infections than usual. It’s an essential part of prenatal care.
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.
The flu may not seem like a big risk for you, but being pregnant changes how your lungs, heart, and immune system work. 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. And if you get this vaccine during pregnancy, it can offer protection to your child, too.
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.
Flu vaccines are even beneficial for unborn fetuses, who are otherwise very vulnerable to any illnesses their mothers catch while pregnant. After birth, your newborn has these antibodies to provide some continued protection against the particular strain of flu virus traveling around.
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. 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 afterward, 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 and birth defects.