The flu shot can be a touchy subject in general, but once we add pregnancy in there, things get a whole lot more heated! The internet can be full of helpful information but strewn in there can be some not-so-good advice. As always, The Mama Coach has your back for evidenced based information to help you make the best choices for you and your family.
Cutting right to the chase –
YES, the flu shot is not only safe in pregnancy, but is also highly recommended.
The flu vaccine is well studied, and safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women. The virus used in the vaccine is inactivated, so it won’t make you or your baby sick. Instead, it allows your body to recognize the virus, so the next time you are exposed to it, your immune system will know how to fight it off. Just so we’re clear – the flu vaccine WILL NOT give you the flu.
Why is it recommended?
Influenza can be a very dangerous virus. It is less dangerous for those who have strong immune systems, but for high risk populations, it can cause serious illness leading to hospitalization or even death. The changes to a woman’s body that occur during pregnancy make her more susceptible to infections and increase the risk of complications from the flu virus. The antibodies your body creates after having the flu shot will continue to protect you throughout your pregnancy and will help protect your baby after they are born. A 2014 study showed that getting the flu shot reduced the risk of flu-related hospitalization by 59%.
When is flu season?
Flu season typically runs from late fall until early spring (October to March). To date, more than 588 flu-related hospitalizations have been reported in Canada. This includes 65 ICU admissions and 9 deaths as of December 1st, 2018. Each year, Influenza is responsible for more than 12,000 hospitalizations and 3,500 deaths in Canada.
Where can I get the flu shot?
Because the flu virus changes, you will need to get a flu shot each year. You can get your flu shot for free at a pharmacy, your health care provider’s office, a workplace flu clinic or a public health clinic.
What else can I do to protect myself from the flu?
Ask those closest to you to get the flu shot as well. Washing your hands often is the easiest way to protect yourself. Wash with soap and warm water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
If you are sick, cough and sneeze into your arm or a tissue, and stay home!
Signs and symptoms
The symptoms of influenza start suddenly and may include fever, sore throat, runny nose, cough, headache, muscle aches, loss of appetite, and feeling tired. Vomiting and diarrhea may also be present.
What if I do get sick with the flu?
The flu can be especially dangerous in early and late pregnancy. A high fever, which can be a symptom of influenza may be related to birth defects in babies. If you have a fever, take Tylenol and contact your care provider. If you have any of the following symptoms you should call 911 or head to your local emergency room:
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
- Sudden dizziness or Confusion
- Severe or persistent vomiting
- High fever that is not responding to Tylenol or store brand equivalent
- Decreased or no movement of your baby
Stay well this flu season, Mamas!
Reach out to a mama coach in your area if you have any pregnancy related questions. We are always here to help!