There are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to getting the flu shot while pregnant. Many pregnant women are concerned about the safety of the vaccine for their developing baby. The Centers for Disease Control (and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend the flu shot during pregnancy as it provides the best protection against the flu and flu symptoms for both mom and baby. Additionally, while we are in the middle of a pandemic, getting the flu vaccine this fall will be more important than ever, not only to reduce your risk from the flu but also to help conserve potentially scarce healthcare resources.
The flu vaccine is safe to receive at any point during pregnancy. The recommended flu vaccine is the inactivated influenza vaccine, which means it is made from an inactivated or dead virus that is safe for mom and baby. After receiving the flu vaccine, the body forms antibodies, which are proteins that can help fight infection. The antibodies are also passed along to the baby, which offers protection following birth.
While the vaccine may not cover all strains of the virus, it can significantly decrease the risk of getting sick. If you still contract the flu despite receiving the vaccine, the vaccine can also lessen the severity of your symptoms. This is important, because pregnant women are more susceptible to serious illness than women who are not pregnant. They also have a higher risk of developing pneumonia, being hospitalized, and even being admitted to the intensive care unit, all of which can affect the developing baby.
Some people notice side effects when they get the flu vaccine, but these are usually very mild and can include soreness near the injection site as well as headache, fever and fatigue. If you have an allergy to eggs or the flu vaccine, talk with your provider first, as you may still be able to receive the vaccine. If you missed the vaccine while pregnant and are now breastfeeding, it is still safe to get.
Another important thing to remember is to contact your provider as soon as possible if you are exposed to someone with the flu or if you experience any flu-like symptoms. They may recommend that you start a medication for prevention or treatment. Because some of the symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are similar, it may be hard to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone, and testing may be needed to help confirm a diagnosis.
If your provider does not have the vaccine readily available in the clinic, visit and Ochsner Pharmacy and Wellness location. See a list of locations here. When it comes to you and the health of your baby, preventative care is always the best care.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on Nov. 1, 2019, but has been updated.