Why It’s Important for Pregnant Women to Have a Flu Shot

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. 

Pregnancy Women & The Flu Shot

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.   




Choosing A Contraception Method That’s Right for You

Nearly half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned and it’s easy to become overwhelmed when choosing contraception. Understanding the options available is the first step in choosing a contraception method that’s right for you.

Contraception options can fall into two key categories, contraception for birth control, or contraception that aims to prevent both pregnancy and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs).  Both parties in a sexual relationship should be aware and in agreement about the method of contraception you decide to use.


Short-Term Contraception Options:

Abstinence is a decision to refrain from sexual intercourse for a period, or completely.

Pros: A natural, free method and the only contraception method that is 100% effective.
Cons: Abstinence needs to be practiced consistently to be effective, which can be a difficult decision for individuals or couples to maintain. You should be prepared to use other contraception should you decide to end a period of abstinence.

Male condoms are a well-known contraception option which also help prevent against STIs, they act as a barrier to stop sperm during sex.

Pros: Condoms protect against pregnancy and STIs most of the time, although they are not 100% effective, and should always be used in-date and checked for any rips. They are relatively inexpensive and easy to apply.
Cons: Some men and women may have an allergic reaction to common latex condoms and may need to use non-latex versions. You need to have a condom handy in moments of spontaneity, so you should keep well-stocked.

Female Condoms:
Female condoms are plastic pouches that are inserted into the vagina to prevent sperm entering, similar to the male condom.

Pros: These are widely available and can be inserted up to 8 hours before having intercourse.
Cons: These do not protect completely from STIs and are less effective than male condoms. Like male condoms, female condoms can’t be re-used.

If you are confident that both yourself and sexual partner have undergone STI checks and are clear of any infections, then you may wish to use one of the following contraception only options:

Natural Family Planning:
Natural family planning, or fertility awareness, involves monitoring a women’s natural fertility cycle and abstaining from sex at the times she is fertile.  

Pros: A free and natural option which may suit women who are opposed to taking drugs, have previously suffered from side effects of other options, or for women who are taking other medication which might interfere with contraceptive drugs.
Cons: Successfully monitoring your cycle can be difficult and WebMD reports around 25% of women still get pregnant. Speak to your doctor to gain more information on managing your fertility cycle.

Spermicide is a gel or foam that is inserted into the vagina before sex.

Pros: An easy to use option which is relatively inexpensive.
Cons: Regular use can cause irritation or tissue damage, which can increase your risks of contracting an STI if not used alongside a condom.

Diaphragm or Cervical Cap:
Diaphragms and cervical caps are fitted into the vagina and used alongside spermicide to prevent sperm reaching the cervix. The cervical cap is slightly smaller and has a higher failure rate for women who have previously had children.

Pros: Can be reused and are cost effective over time.
Cons: Both options need to be fitted by a doctor and they do not offer STI protection. They can’t be used during your period as it may increase your risk of toxic shock syndrome. Both the diaphragm and cervical cap have failure rates of 15% or more, and a higher likelihood of failure if you have previously had children.

Birth Control Pills:
This is a medication taken daily to prevent pregnancy. There are many different options on the market, with varying side effects or benefits. The side effects and benefits of birth control can differ between individuals.

Pros: Many women find birth control helps to regulate periods and diminishes period flow, period pain, cramps or acne. Some women can stop their periods completely while using birth control pills.
Cons: Birth control pills can be more expensive than other contraception, depending on the type of pill you’re using and how often you are having sex. Some women experience side effects of the medication, including weight gain, breast tenderness, blood clotting or increased blood pressure.

You should always speak to your doctor about taking birth control pills, as some women may be pre-disposed to increased side effects. Women over 35 who smoke are often advised to avoid contraceptive pills.

Withdrawal/Pulling Out:
Withdrawal is a technique where the man withdraws or ‘pulls out’ from intercourse before ejaculating.

Pros: This is a natural and free birth control option.
Cons: Withdrawal can be difficult to time properly and is often ineffective, especially if practiced incorrectly.

Long Term Birth Control Options:
If you are looking for long term birth control then there are several options available, however these do not protect against STIs.

  • Vaginal Ring: lasts one month
  • Birth Control Shot: lasts three months
  • Birth Control Implant:  lasts three years
  • IUD: lasts four to 10 years

Permanent Birth Control:
If you never want to have children, or have decided not to expand your family, then you may consider permanent birth control options such as:

  • Tubal Ligation
  • Tubal Implants
  • Vasectomy (Male)

Emergency Contraception:
Emergency contraception pills can be taken up to 5 days after intercourse. Over the counter pills usually need to be taken within 72 hours. Prescription varieties can be taken up to 5 days after intercourse. Both options are more effective if taken as soon as possible. Emergency contraception is not as effective as condoms or birth control pills. They should not be taken as your regular contraceptive, but are back-up when other methods have failed, for example if a condom breaks.

Read more:

To learn more about women’s health services and family planning options, call Arizona OB/GYN Affiliates (AOA) at 602-343-6174 or visit www.aoafamily.com.