The Flu Shot: Safe & Recommended for Pregnant Women
Vaccines are a hot topic these days. However, when it comes to whether or not pregnant women should get the flu vaccine, Kimberlee McKay, MD, an OB/GYN with Avera Medical Group, believes the answer is clear.
“It’s very safe to get the flu shot while pregnant and the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) recommends it,” she says.
In fact, a recent study shows that getting a flu shot reduces a pregnant woman’s risk of being hospitalized with flu by an average of 40 percent.
Boost Your Immune System with the Flu Shot
During pregnancy, a woman’s immune system undergoes changes that make her not only more susceptible to illness and infection, but it can also be more severe.
“She’s considered immunocompromised, which simply means that her body can’t fight off infection as well,” says McKay. “If she gets the flu, she’s at a higher risk for hospitalization and – although rare – death.”
Receiving the flu shot helps her body develop antibodies that protect against the flu virus. She can also pass those protective antibodies on to her baby through breastfeeding.
And it’s not just mom who should get the flu shot.
“It’s very important for all of the family members (6 months old and older) and caretakers to get the flu shot, as well. It protects not only them, but also the baby, from the flu virus.”
Flu Shot or Flu Mist?
McKay notes that pregnant women should only get the flu shot – not the Flu Mist nasal spray. The flu shot contains a “dead” virus that cannot give you the actual flu. On the other hand, the Flu Mist is considered a live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV). Because it contains a weakened flu virus, it can cause mild signs or symptoms such as runny nose, fever, sore throat and nasal congestion.
Protecting the Entire Family from the Flu
For Callee Bauman Wachter, a young mother with three kids under the age of 6 and one due next spring, getting the flu shot each year is a no-brainer.
“With three little kids at home and one on the way, who has time to get sick?” she laughs. “As an expectant mother, you do so many things to take care of yourself. You’re eating more fruits and vegetables and trying to be as healthy as possible. This is just another step in that direction.”
Bauman Wachter has chosen to get the flu shot during each of her pregnancies and says that her husband and kids all receive the flu shot too. “Anything to make my life easier and prevent possible illness is important to us. I don’t feel nervous about getting the flu shot. It’s just part of being proactive about our health.”
To learn more, read our frequently asked questions about the flu vaccine.