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Flu Vaccine in Pregnancy

Many women have questions as to whether the flu vaccine is necessary in pregnancy. There are many misconceptions about vaccination, such as, “I will get the flu from the vaccine”, “The vaccine will make me more susceptible to other respiratory illnesses”, “The flu vaccine is not safe in pregnancy”, “The vaccine will harm my baby”. All of these are incorrect. I hope the following information will help to put your mind at ease and encourage you to obtain this year’s flu vaccination. 

Why should I get the flu vaccine? Normal changes in the immune system due to pregnancy put you at a higher risk to contract the flu and have a higher rate of complications. Pregnant women are 7 times more likely to suffer complications from flu infection than women who are not pregnant. There are also pregnancy specific complications, such as preterm labor and preterm birth. The flu vaccine triggers your immune system to make antibodies against the flu virus.

Who should get the flu vaccine? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that everyone 6 months of age and older get the flu vaccine yearly. This includes women who are pregnant and breastfeeding. It is best to get the vaccine early in the flu season, which begins in October and peaks between December and February.

 

What type of flu vaccine should I get? There are 2 types of flu vaccines: a shot and a nasal mist. The shot contains a form of the inactive flu virus. The vaccine itself cannot cause illness. This form of vaccination is safe and can be given at any stage of pregnancy. The nasal mist is a live, weakened form of the virus. This form is not recommended for pregnant women but is safe after delivery, including during breastfeeding.

 

What is the affect on my baby? As previously mentioned, the flu vaccine activates your body to make antibodies against the flu virus. These antibodies cross the placenta during pregnancy and delivered in breast milk after birth. Babies cannot get the flu vaccine until they are 6 months old and these antibodies are their only protection.

 

The flu vaccine in pregnancy does “double duty” by protecting both you and baby. With flu season right around the corner, we encourage you to get the vaccine at your next visit. Feel free to contact the office with more questions or concerns.

Author
Brian A Levitt, MD

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