August is National Immunization Awareness Month. It’s a great time for Women’s Telehealth to stress the importance of influenza (flu) vaccination for all moms-to-be, during any trimester. Both the CDC and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have recommended for years that pregnant women and women who are breastfeeding get the flu vaccine.
Vaccines are made with the highest of safety standards. The influenza vaccine has been proven safe and effective and has not been known to cause pregnancy problems or birth defects. The U.S. FDA approves all vaccines and the CDC monitors all approved vaccines regularly.
How does being pregnant increase the risk of complications from the flu?
Pregnant women are a high risk group for flu due to normal changes in the immune system during pregnancy. Flu is more likely to cause severe illness in pregnant women than in women of reproductive age who are not pregnant. Pregnant women who contract the flu are also at a higher risk for complications of pregnancy such as preterm labor. A 2018 study showed that getting a flu vaccine while pregnant reduced a pregnant women’s risk of getting hospitalized with the flu by 40%.
When pregnant, the flu vaccine does “double duty” by protecting the baby as well. When a pregnant woman gets the flu vaccine, she makes protective antibodies that are transferred to baby. Infants younger than 6 months are at high risk for serious flu-related complications, but once born, are not approved for influenza vaccination until 6 months or older.
What type of flu vaccine should a pregnant woman get?
Flu vaccines are administered to adults in two ways: injection (shot) into the arm muscle and nasal spray that is inhaled. The shot contains the flu virus in an inactivated form so there’s no risk of it causing the disease. The shot therefore is the recommended form of influenza vaccine during pregnancy. The nasal spray is “live” flu virus and is NOT recommended for pregnant women.
Since the types of virus that can cause flu change, annual flu vaccination is recommended. The side effects of most vaccines are mild and last only a day or two. However, if you have any concerns about side effects after you receive the flu vaccine, consult your obstetrician.
What should you do if you get the flu while you are pregnant?
If you are pregnant and think you have the flu, contact your obstetrician right away. Some symptoms of the flu include: fever, chills, body ache, headache, fatigue, cough, sore throat or runny nose. Antiviral medication is available by prescription and has value if taken within 48 hours of the onset of flu. This medicine will not prevent flu. but often shortens the length and severity of flu. You should also contact your obstetrician if you think you may have come in contact with someone who has the flu.
For more information on Pregnancy and Flu visit: https://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/The-Flu-Vaccine-and-Pregnancy?IsMobileSet=false or https://www.cdc.gov/flu/highrisk/qa_vacpregnant.htmTanya Mack, President