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Before flu season strikes again, it is particularly important for pregnant women to get the influenza vaccine. This protects not only the mother from potentially serious illness, but the baby as well – even for a number of months after birth.
Due to changes in the immune system and the heart and the lungs during pregnancy, expectant mothers have an increased risk of suffering serious complications if they get the flu. According to Ob Hospitalist Group (OBHG) obstetrician Dr. Lydia Sims, possible complications include pneumonia, sinusitis, ear infections, dehydration, and inflammation of the heart, muscles, and nerves. Sometimes these complications require hospitalization or can lead to preterm labor/premature birth, or even death.
When can pregnant women get the flu shot?
Pregnant women can receive the inactivated flu vaccine during any trimester. They should never receive the nasal spray, which contains live, weakened flu viruses. Pregnant women move to the front of the line when it comes to prioritizing vaccine recipients:
“The flu vaccine is so important for pregnant women that even in times when the vaccine is scarce, pregnant women are considered high priority to get the shot,” said OBHG’s Dr. Michael Green.
What else can pregnant women do to prevent against the flu?
The best defense against influenza is the flu vaccine, but there are other preventative actions pregnant women can take to protect themselves. These actions include ensuring family members receive the vaccine; avoiding close contact; disinfecting surfaces at work, home, and school; and washing hands thoroughly and often.
What are the flu symptoms?
Flu symptoms differ from cold symptoms in that they develop suddenly and can include fever, chills, headache, severe cough, fatigue, and/or body aches.
What can a pregnant woman do if she’s contracted the flu?
If a pregnant woman has contracted the flu, she can start taking Tamiflu®, Relenza®, or Repivab® within two days of incubation to help reduce the severity of the symptoms and lessen the chance of complications. Patients should talk to their doctors about which treatment is appropriate, and take steps to prevent spreading the virus to others.
Getting a flu shot should be a no-brainer
For pregnant women, getting the flu vaccine should be a no-brainer because it serves as the best protection against the virus for both moms and her babies.
“A pregnant woman getting the flu vaccine during the flu season is playing an active role in having a healthy pregnancy,” said Dr. Sims. “Unfortunately, once the baby is born, although he or she can get the flu, the baby cannot receive the flu vaccine until he or she is six months old. If the mother receives the flu vaccine during pregnancy, it provides immunity to the baby through the placenta reducing the newborn’s chance of getting the flu and its complications. Healthy baby...happy family.”
This blog provides general information and discussion about healthcare-related subjects. The content and linked materials provided are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice. If the reader is an expectant mother with a medical concern, she should consult with an appropriately licensed physician or healthcare provider.
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