The Flu Vaccine & Pregnancy

Posted On: November 30, 2017 By Julie Romero, MD

The signs and symptoms of influenza (the flu) often include fever, headache, fatigue, muscle aches, coughing, sore throat and it may even lead to complications such as pneumonia. On rare occasions, complications such as these can be life-threatening. That is why it is important to know that the flu virus is more likely to cause severe illness in pregnant women than in women who are not pregnant. Changes in the immune system, heart, and lungs during pregnancy make pregnant women more prone to getting very sick from flu. Pregnant women with the flu may need to be hospitalized and there have even been maternal deaths resulting from flu in pregnancy. The flu may also be harmful for a developing fetus. A common flu symptom is fever, which may be associated with neural tube defects and other adverse outcomes for a developing fetus.
Getting a flu shot is the most important action you can take to protect against flu. The flu shot given during pregnancy has been shown to protect both the mother and her baby from flu for several months after birth. Studies in young healthy adults show that getting a flu shot reduces the risk of illness by 40% to 60% during seasons when the flu vaccine is well-matched to circulating viruses. There also are studies that show that a baby whose mother was vaccinated during her pregnancy is protected from flu infection for several months after they are born before the baby is old enough to be vaccinated (at six months of age). Pregnant women should get an inactivated influenza vaccine (flu shot); the nasal spray vaccine should not be given to women who are pregnant. Most side effects of vaccines are mild, such as a sore arm or a low fever, and go away within a day or two. Severe side effects and reactions are rare.

Flu shots have been given to millions of pregnant women over many years with an excellent safety record. There is abundant evidence that flu vaccines can be given safely. The Centers for Disease Control and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommend that pregnant women get vaccinated during any trimester of their pregnancy.

Carnegie Imaging for Women blogs are intended for educational purposes only and do not replace certified professional care. Medical conditions vary and change frequently. Please ask your doctor any questions you may have regarding your condition to receive a proper diagnosis or risk analysis. Thank you!

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