Flu season is upon us, and it’s never too late to start planning for your continued good health — especially if you’re pregnant. The season usually occurs between October and February but sometimes lasts as late as May.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends getting a flu shot this season if you’re expecting a baby. Here’s what else you should know about flu shots for pregnant women.
A History of Protection
There’s plenty of evidence backing the CDC’s recommendation. A review of more than 100 studies determined the flu can severely affect maternal health and pregnancy, but the flu shot offers needed protection. Most expectant moms have safely gotten their flu shots for many years, and they can continue to do so during any trimester of pregnancy.
The same academic review found that compared to the general population, pregnant women are hospitalized and admitted to intensive care more often when they get the flu. Flu hospitalizations also increase rates of premature birth and miscarriage.
When you’re pregnant, the immune system, heart and lungs undergo changes you may not even notice. These can make it easier for you to contract a severe case of the flu that could quickly become serious.
Getting the flu while pregnant can also cause serious problems such as neural tube defects for your unborn baby, especially if you have a fever with your flu. These include birth defects of the brain, spine or spinal cord.
What’s New With Flu
When you get a flu shot, you’re protecting more people than just yourself and your unborn child. The more people who get vaccinated, the more who will ultimately be protected from the flu. It’s a concept called Herd Immunity.
This season, you won’t be offered nasal spray vaccines. Instead, you’ll receive only injectable shots with vaccines that are current. The flu virus changes every year and extensive research has been done to determine the viruses that will likely be circulating.
The Time Is Now
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that pregnant women continue to get “routine flu vaccinations during pregnancy, regardless of the trimester.” The organization calls the flu shot “an essential element of prenatal care.”
Flu shots for pregnant women are vitally important. While flu season is well underway, getting vaccinated as late as January will still help keep you protected from flu. Remember that your body needs approximately two weeks from the date of your vaccination to make antibodies that protect you from the flu virus, the CDC notes.
Talk to a Lahey Health physician about keeping yourself and your growing family safe from the flu this season.