Temperatures are dropping and summer is on its way out, replaced by none other than flu season. This time of year raises the questions for parents of deciding whether or not to vaccinate their children. Flu vaccinations are highly important, not only for children but for mothers-to-be as well. Given that the immune system during pregnancy is weaker than usual, pregnant women are more susceptible to catching the flu. If a pregnant woman does catch the flu, symptoms may be heightened in severity, and which trigger pregnancy complications such as preterm labor or preterm birth. If you are pregnant this season, consider getting vaccinated.
When should you get flu shot during pregnancy?
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the optimal time for pregnant women to receive the vaccination is as early in the season as it becomes available. There are two types of vaccinations: a shot and a nasal mist. If you are pregnant, it is recommended to avoid the nasal mist option (however, this is a safe option after birth and while breastfeeding). After receiving the vaccine, the immune system begins to make antibodies that fight off the flu virus. These circulate through the bloodstream, and if they come across the virus, they flag it, which sends a message to the rest of the immune system. After about two weeks following the shot, the body will have built up protective antibodies to fight off the virus should you come in contact with it in the future.
Getting this shot while pregnant means that both you and the baby are protected. While babies legally cannot receive a flu shot until 6 months old, if a pregnant woman receives it, the baby in the womb can begin building antibodies until they are old enough to get vaccinated. This leads to the question of whether or not there are side effects of getting vaccinated. Of great interest in the media lately is the potential link to vaccinations and autism. According to the CDC, “there is no scientific evidence that vaccines made with thimerosal...can cause autism or other health problems in babies”. Side effects from a flu shot tend to be mild, such as arm soreness, and go away within a few days.
If you think you may have caught the flu while pregnant, it’s important to err on the side of caution. Make sure you reach out to your doctor and work closely with her/him to monitor and treat your symptoms. Learn the symptoms that may be indicative of the flu, as well as non-medical and medical treatment for the flu during pregnancy.