Should pregnant women get the flu shot?

Cold & Flu

by LeAnn Haddock, MD

Nov 10, 2016

It’s that time of year again, when we’re all being urged to get our flu shots. Many moms-to-be often ask me whether it’s safe for them to get vaccinated. The answer is yes, it is safe, and it’s strongly recommended no matter where you are in your pregnancy.

Pregnant women are more likely to get seriously ill from the flu than other people. That’s because a woman’s immune system changes during pregnancy, which may make her more susceptible to infectious diseases. Getting the flu while pregnant also increases the risk of an early labor, which can be harmful to the baby.

The vaccine not only protects the mom, but it safeguards the newborn, too. The antibodies that develop in the mother’s blood pass through the placenta into the baby’s system, so the baby is protected from getting flu during the first few months of life.

Babies aged 0 – 5 months are five times more likely to be hospitalized due to flu than children aged 6 – 23 months.

The protection for very young babies is very important because no flu vaccine is approved for infants younger than six months old. Unvaccinated babies born to unvaccinated mothers have little way to fight a flu infection. Babies aged 0 – 5 months are five times more likely to be hospitalized due to flu than children aged 6 – 23 months. Mortality rates are also the highest in this age group compared to any other with 0.88 deaths per 100,000 children infected.

If you’re pregnant and you get sick with flu symptoms, call your doctor right away. There are prescription antiviral drugs that can treat flu illness and prevent serious flu complications. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that pregnant women with flu symptoms be treated with these drugs. Having a fever caused by flu infection or other infections early in pregnancy can lead to birth defects in a baby. Pregnant women who get a fever should treat their fever with acetaminophen and contact their doctor as soon as possible.

About the Author

Dr. LeAnn Haddock is an OB/Gyn on the medical staff at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas.

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