Cooler weather, the falling of leaves and an increase in coughs and sneezes are all signs that the dreaded flu season is here once again. Flu season in the United States runs between October and May, and new strains of the influenza virus appear every year, meaning vaccinations should be repeated annually.
If you’re pregnant you may have wondered if you were able to get the flu shot this winter. The flu shot is safe and highly recommended for pregnant women, here’s why:
Why should pregnant women get a flu shot?
Influenza (the ‘flu’) can be very dangerous for pregnant woman as they are at greater risk of having severe complications like pneumonia which are dangerous for the mother and could, in turn, lead to an increased risk of miscarriage.
If you get vaccinated in your third trimester a flu vaccination also helps protect your baby from the flu until they are old enough to have a shot themselves at 6 months old.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends all pregnant women get a flu vaccination.
Is it safe and are there side effects?
A flu vaccination administered with a needle has been approved for pregnant women and has been given to millions of women with good safety records.
However, the nasal spray vaccination is not recommended for pregnant women. This is because the nasal spray (FluMist) contains a live virus, and the needle vaccination does not.
Multiple studies have shown women who have a flu shot do not have an increased risk of miscarriage, while contracting influenza while pregnant would be more likely to put the mother and baby at risk.
The flu shot may have some minor side effects, which are no more likely for pregnant women or babies than they are for other individuals. Side effects may include headaches, aches, pains, or a slight fever.
If you are prone to dizziness or fainting when having injections or seeing needles, you should tell your doctor or nurse before having your flu shot.
What is thimerosal?
Some flu vaccines contain a mercury-based preservative called thimerosal which is added to vaccines to prevent bacteria growth. Thimerosal has been used in vaccines for over 70 years as a preservative to inhibit the growth of bacteria and fungi in vaccines.
Most studies have shown the small amount of thimerosal in vaccines does not cause harm to an expecting mother or her baby and does not increase a risk of autism.
Some people may have a rare allergy to thimerosal and may experience redness at the injection site. There is thimerosal-free flu vaccine available for people who want to avoid thimerosal.
Can breastfeeding Moms get a flu shot?
You can safely get a flu shot while breastfeeding and this will help protect both yourself and your baby. Mothers could pass the flu to their baby from breastfeeding, so a flu shot administered while breastfeeding will help protect both mother and child until the baby is old enough to have their own shot at six months old.
More information on having the flu shot while pregnant:
To learn more about women’s health services call Arizona OB/GYN Affiliates (AOA) at 602-343-6174 or visit www.aoafamily.com.