It’s that time of year again: flu season. So let’s talk a little about our recommendations during pregnancy. First and foremost: we recommend vaccination.
When should you be vaccinated? As soon as the season’s vaccination is available (now). Flu season runs from October to May in the United States. Direct from the American College of
Obstetricians and Gynecologists: “Influenza vaccination is an essential element of pre-pregnancy, prenatal and postpartum care.”
Why are we so insistent on the vaccination in pregnancy? First, your body’s immune system is slightly lowered during pregnancy to allow mom and baby to safely coexist. This means higher susceptibility to common cold, cough, influenza (flu). Secondly, if exposed to flu in pregnancy, moms are at higher risk for pneumonia, hospitalization in intensive care unit and babies exposed to flu during pregnancy are at higher risk for bad outcomes (miscarriage, preterm birth, fetal death).
What kind of flu vaccine is safe in pregnancy? What’s this about thimerosal (safe preservative found in some flu vaccines)? An inactivated flu vaccine can be safely given during any trimester. More than 80-90% of the previous year’s flu shot supply was thimerosal free. Thimerisol has not been shown to be unsafe for pregnant women and the CDC does not designate a preference for preservative free or not for pregnant women getting vaccinated. That being said, our office is offering preservative free vaccines only, but if you choose to vaccinate elsewhere both options are acceptable and safe.
Can I get the flu from the flu vaccine? No. You may feel a low grade fever, soreness/swelling at injection site, muscle aches, nausea. These symptoms should last no longer than 2 days and are a good sign your body is responding to the vaccine.
Is there flu treatment if you have flu exposure or symptoms despite vaccination? Yes. We strongly recommend calling your physician’s office if you have flu like symptoms (fever, muscle aches, shakes, headache, cough, runny nose) or are in immediate contact with someone with known flu. Tamiflu is a safe prescription medication to take during pregnancy for prevention or treatment of flu and should be started within 48 hours of symptoms or exposure for best results. There are both treatment and preventative doses of Tamiflu.
Are there any times people should not receive the flu vaccine? Yes but these are rare and should be discussed with a physician. Some reasons to avoid vaccination would include history of severe allergic reaction to the vaccine or egg products, history of Guillain–Barré syndrome after flu shot or current moderate to severe illness.
Are there increased risks of miscarriage, birth defects or developmental issues for developing babies whose mom’s receive the flu vaccine? No. None of these claims have been validated by good scientific studies.
Does the flu shot really help baby? Yes. Studies show that infants of mothers who received the flu vaccine are less likely to require hospitalization for influenza compared to those that did not. Infants cannot get the flu shot until 6 months of age, so antibodies passed through the placenta are babies best protection.
Do you see why we are so passionate about the flu vaccine now? Come get yours at your next appointment with us!