Annual flu shots are an easily-accessible and preventative measure for almost everyone. The flu is much more than simply a bad cold. Although both the common cold and the flu may cause upper respiratory symptoms, influenza can be serious and even fatal. As reported by CBS News, around 80,000 Americans died from the flu and related complications during the winter of 2017/2018. The flu leaves patients open to other life-threatening infections like pneumonia. It is especially crucial that high-risk groups be vaccinated against the flu every year. These groups include the elderly, young children, and pregnant women.
If an expectant mother neglects to get the flu shot, she potentially puts both herself and her unborn child at risk. Yet, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only half of pregnant women in the United States receive the flu vaccine. Here are specific reasons why obtaining the flu vaccine is an integral part of prenatal care.
1. The Flu Shot Protects Pregnant Women
Pregnancy puts a lot of stress on a woman’s body as she undergoes profound biological changes. One of these adjustments is a weakened immune system, which makes pregnant women more susceptible to serious illnesses than the general population, and the flu is no exception. The CDC states that unvaccinated pregnant women tend to contract the flu at greater rates than unvaccinated women who are not pregnant. Additionally, cases of influenza are likely to be more severe in pregnant women than in the general population.
The optimal treatment for any illness is never to develop the illness in the first place. The flu shot is the best protection available against contracting influenza and is certainly better than risking complications from the flu.
2. The Flu Shot Protects Babies
Influenza in pregnant women is associated with an increased number of severe birth defects in their unborn children, such as defects of the heart, brain or spine. The flu also produces a greater likelihood of miscarriage. Receiving the flu vaccine while pregnant goes a long way towards protecting unborn children from devastating health consequences.
Furthermore, the flu vaccine brings some immunity to infants after they are born. A child cannot receive the flu shot until they are at least six months old. But, if the mother received the vaccine while the child is in the womb, then the newborn will still have a degree of protection against the flu.
3. The Flu Shot is Safe for Pregnant Women and Their Babies
Pregnant mothers can safely receive the flu shot. The flu vaccine does not cause fever, coughing, the flu itself, or any other illness. The only reaction may be some soreness at the injection site – a small price to pay to safeguard the health of mother and child.
The vaccine also has no adverse effects on fetal growth and development. There is absolutely no reliable evidence that the influenza vaccine, or any vaccine, causes or contributes to autism in children. The few studies that suggested such have been thoroughly discredited. Conversely, there have been dozens of studies that demonstrated the safety of vaccinations for mothers and babies time and time again.
4. Experts Recommend the Flu Shot
All professional medical organizations strongly encourage pregnant women to receive the flu vaccine and agree that the flu shot is safe for expectant mothers and children. These groups include the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Academy of Pediatrics who state, “Influenza vaccine should be given to all women who are pregnant, considering pregnancy or are in the postpartum period or are breastfeeding during the flu season.” The CDC also asserts the flu vaccine is safe for pregnant women and even directs healthcare providers to preferentially administer the vaccine to these women when there is a shortage of flu shots. Even for women who were previously cautious given their egg allergy, this allergy is no longer considered a contraindication and there is now a flu vaccine available where it has not been made in egg culture.
In summary, virtually all pregnant women should receive the flu vaccine no matter how far along they are in their pregnancy. The flu shot is safe and remains the best safeguard against the flu’s potentially dire effects on mothers and children.
Schedule a Flu Shot at Your Next Appointment
Did you know you can get a flu shot at an upcoming prenatal appointment? When booking your next appointment with Dr. Garofalo, let us know that you’re interested in receiving a flu vaccine, and we will be happy to include it in your next appointment. If you’re ready to schedule your next appointment online, please click the button below.