Getting a Flu Shot During Pregnancy

We’ve all heard of the importance of getting a flu shot. There are hundreds of commercials, social media advertisements, and signs at local grocery stores or drug stores reminding you to get a flu shot this season. Most people think nothing of getting it, they simply go in, get their shot, and continue on with their day. The risks are miniscule and the benefits are immense, so it’s a no brainer.

But what if you’re an expecting mother? Is it safe to get vaccinated during pregnancy? In this article, we’ll explore everything you need to know about getting the flu shot while pregnant.

What Does the Flu Shot Do?

The flu shot is comprised of a small amount of flu virus, often grown inside fertilized chicken eggs, that’s injected into your body. This alerts your cells to start developing antibodies for that virus, without actually getting sick. This way, if you come in contact with the virus in larger quantities, such as being exposed to a sick friend or family member, your body will already have the tools it needs to fight it off.

For most people, the flu vaccine simply protects them from getting sick, and therefore reducing potentially life-threatening complications. For expecting mothers, the flu shot can help with this as well as a number of other things. Some of them include:

Preventing Maternal Complications

Everybody reacts to the flu differently, but pregnant women are more likely to be affected by more severe illness. The flu shot helps lower the chance that you’ll need to be hospitalized from flu related complications.

Prevent Potential Fetal Health Problems

When you get sick during pregnancy, there are a number of risks that your developing baby undergoes. To reduce any potential fetal health problems, such as neural tube defects, you want to avoid any serious illnesses like the flu. Getting a flu shot while pregnant will help.

Protects Babies Post Delivery

When you deliver your baby, you will not be able to get them vaccinated until around 6 months old. If you’ve received a flu shot during pregnancy, the antibodies you develop actually pass through the placenta and breast milk and help to protect your baby from the flu after birth.

Even if you eat healthy, exercise regularly, and avoid people experiencing flu symptoms, the best protection against the flu is getting a vaccine. The flu vaccine will help you protect yourself and your developing baby against extreme illness. In fact, in a 2018 study, it was shown that getting a flu shot reduced a pregnant woman’s risk of being hospitalized with the flu by an average of 40%.

As always, if you’re concerned or have any questions, talk to your doctor before getting the flu vaccine.

It’s also worth mentioning that the flu vaccine comes in two different forms—a shot and a nasal spray. To better protect both you and your baby from the flu, opt for the vaccine in shot form. The shot is made from an inactivated form of the flu virus, so it’s much safer for both mom and baby. The nasal vaccine is an active form and is not recommended for pregnant women.

How Safe is the Flu Shot During Pregnancy?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, getting a flu shot while pregnant is extremely safe—especially when weighed against the risks of not getting a shot. The safety is monitored through a number of systems and has been tested throughout several studies conducted by the CDC. Additionally, contrary to what you might think, it’s safe to get the flu shot in any trimester of your pregnancy.

Understanding the Mercury Doses in Flu Shots

Every pregnant woman is warned about the dangers of mercury, so getting a vaccine that’s said to have trace amounts is concerning. However, the trace levels of thimerosal—an ethyl mercury-based preservative—is minimal and has not been shown to cause any harm to expecting mothers or babies.

If you have any concerns about this, there are thimerosal-free flu shots available. Talk to your doctor to learn more.

Getting a Flu Shot with an Egg Allergy

If you have an egg allergy, you’re very aware of the danger of getting certain vaccines. Many vaccines contain an egg protein component so people with severe egg allergies often have extremely adverse reactions. If you have a severe egg allergy, talk to your doctor about whether or not a flu shot is right for you. If your egg allergy is life threatening, you will be advised to not get the shot, as the risks do not outweigh the benefits.

If your allergy is severe, but not life threatening, there are still ways to go about getting vaccinated in a much more controlled setting.

Each person is different, so don’t take a risk and get vaccinated if you think your allergies are “mild.” It’s always better to stray on the safe side, especially if you’re pregnant.

Getting the Flu Shot While Breastfeeding

As we mentioned above, getting the flu shot while pregnant or breastfeeding will actually transfer those antibodies to your baby. For this reason, it’s encouraged that breastfeeding women get a flu shot, especially during those first 6 months of your baby’s life.

The Misconception about Flu Shots and Miscarriage

Many people have a misconception that receiving a flu shot during pregnancy will increase the chances of having a miscarriage. Multiple studies have been done that conclude there is no link between getting a flu shot and having a miscarriage. In fact, in the largest and strongest study done by the CDC, there were absolutely no increased risks for miscarriage after getting the flu vaccine. For more information, click here and to read about the study, click here.

As always, if you have any questions or want to learn more about getting the flu shot while pregnant, talk to your doctor first.

Side Effects of the Flu Shot During Pregnancy

When getting a vaccine, there are risks of adverse side effects. However, with the flu shot, the risk for side effects are the same regardless of if you’re pregnant or not. Most of the side effects are mild, but if you experience anything severe or long lasting, call your doctor.

The side effects experienced include the following:

  • Soreness at the site of injection
  • Redness at the site of injection
  • Swelling at the site of injection
  • Fainting
  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Muscle aches
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue

If you experience any side effects, they will likely begin shortly after receiving the shot and may last for 1-2 days. Talk to your doctor about your individual risks and if you have any allergies before getting the flu shot.

Staying Healthy During Pregnancy

While getting the flu shot during pregnancy will help you reduce your chances of getting sick, it doesn’t mean you should throw healthy habits out of the window. The flu vaccine only protects you from about half of all flu viruses. To make sure you’re reducing your risks, it’s important to stay healthy. Plus, staying healthy during pregnancy is key to giving your baby the nutrients they need for a healthy development.

Follow a healthy diet and get enough exercise. Wash your hands regularly, especially after using the restroom and before eating or drinking. Manage your stress, get enough sleep, and practice good health habits to help keep your immune system working its best. If you start to feel sick, or think you have the flu, contact your doctor immediately. There are medications available to reduce your risk of complications.

Conclusion

After talking with your doctor, find a place that offers flu vaccines near you. While you might think that getting one in a supermarket isn’t as safe as a doctor’s office, all places that administer flu shots in the United States are licensed and approved providers. If you feel more comfortable at a doctor’s office, that’s okay. The important thing is finding something that works for you and reduces external stress. Again, if you have any questions, talk to your doctor first. For help with planning a healthy pregnancy, including getting prepared for delivery, read more on our blog at Byram Healthcare. As always, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, expectant mothers are eligible to receive an electric breast pump covered by their insurance provider! Visit Byram Healthcare today to browse all of the available selections.

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