Whether you’re pregnant or trying to conceive a baby, you should consider getting a flu shot. Research shows pregnant women and unborn babies are at increased risk for flu complications during pregnancy if mom hasn’t had a flu shot.
“Getting a flu shot should be a routine part of prenatal care,” said Edward McCabe, MD, March of Dimes chief medical officer. “Health care providers should offer their pregnant patients a flu shot each year and if they don’t, then women should ask for it.”
Nordic Naturals – Prenatal DHA for Pregnant Women is another part of routine prenatal care – though this isn’t an endorsement from Dr McCabe. I was searching for ways to stay healthy for pregnant women and women trying to conceive, and found the DHA prenatal vitamins on Amazon.
Back to getting a flu shot if you’re trying to conceive or already pregnant: only about half of all pregnant women in the U.S. get a flu shot each season, leaving thousands of moms-to-be and their babies at increased risk of serious illness. Get the flu shot if you’re trying to conceive, so you protect yourself from serious or even a minor illness. The flu is not fun, and could even be fatal.
6 Things You Need to Know About Flu Vaccines and Pregnancy
Here are the six most common Questions and Answers about getting a flu shot – and it’s especially important if you’re pregnant or trying to conceive a baby…
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1. Will the flu shot give me or my unborn baby the flu virus?
No. Injectable flu shots are made up of pieces of inactivated flu proteins – and it’s impossible for them to “cause” the flu for women trying to conceive or in unborn babies in pregnant women. The nasal spray flu vaccine has live flu organisms, but they are weakened so they can’t multiply or cause disease.
2. Do flu shots really protect me and my unborn baby from getting sick?
Yes! Especially when there is a good match between the virus causing the flu disease and those in the vaccine. Protection against the flu is lower, however, if you are unhealthy or in the frail elderly group (which I assume you’re not, if you’re trying to conceive and thinking about getting the flu shot!). Flu vaccines aren’t a guarantee you won’t get the flu or that you will get pregnant, but they are a good way to protect yourself and your unborn baby.
If you need extra tips on staying healthy while pregnant, read 10 Tips for a Healthy Pregnancy From a Nurse Midwife.
3. Is the flu shot dangerous for pregnant women or women trying to conceive?
No! In the past, pregnant women and women trying to conceive were advised not to get any kind of flu shot or vaccination during pregnancy. But today’s flu shots are safe for expectant mothers and highly recommended for women trying to conceive. Recent research shows there are significant increases in maternal death among unvaccinated women who are pregnant and infected with the flu virus, which is why the flu shot is so important for women trying to conceive and pregnant women.
However, because nasal flu shots have not been studied in pregnant women, they should stay away from nasal flu vaccines because they contain the live, weakened flu virus.
5. I’m pregnant and the flu season is already here – is it too late for the flu shot?
Nope. It’s always better to get the flu shot before the flu season hits because it can take about two weeks for the vaccine to take full effect, but it’s never too late to get the flu shot. Even if you’ve already caught the flu, get the flu shot to protect yourself, especially if you’re trying to conceive a a baby. You’ll protect yourself and your unborn baby from the other flu strains that are circulating.
6. How harmful is the flu to a pregnant woman or a woman trying to conceive?
There is no such thing as “just” the flu – especially to a fetus. Regardless of our age or physical condition, we still need to get the flu shot to protect our health, especially if we’re already pregnant. In an average year, up to 40,000 Americans die from influenza and its complications, and over 250,000 are hospitalized. Millions are sick, miss school, work, and important events and spend money on over-the-counter cold or flu remedies.
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Complications from the flu and even infant death are particularly frequent in babies and young children, those with chronic medical conditions, the elderly, pregnant women and people who are obese. The flu is not a “minor illness” – serious complications and death result every year due to not getting a flu shot. Pregnant women or women trying to conceive should be especially careful about protecting their health – and their baby’s health.
Why You Should Get the Flu Shot if You’re Trying to Conceive
All pregnant women and women trying to get pregnant should get a flu shot because the normal changes to a pregnant woman’s immune system, heart, and lungs puts moms-to-be at increased risk of the harmful effects of flu infection. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also found that babies born to mothers who got their flu shot while pregnant were protected from serious illness from influenza during their first six months of life. These babies also had a lower risk of flu-related hospitalizations for chronic asthma, heart conditions, diabetes, a weakened immune system, and other health-related problems.
The flu shot doesn’t increase premature birth
Studies that looked at thousands of pregnant women who received the seasonal flu vaccine, found that immunized moms did not have a higher risk of babies being born too soon or developing a birth defect when compared with babies born to women who did not get a vaccine. Also, researchers found that women who got the flu shot were less likely to experience a stillbirth.
If you’re taking hard capsule prenatal vitamins, consider switching to liquid, gel, or gummy vitamins – such as Vitafusion Prenatal Gummy Vitamins. Research shows that hard capsule aren’t as easy to digest, and not all vitamins and minerals are used by your body.
10 Ways to Avoid the Flu for Pregnant Women and Women Trying to Conceive
Dr. Gregory Poland of the Mayo Clinic offers these tips for not getting the flu – whether or not you’re getting a flu shot, are pregnant, or are trying to conceive…
Wash your hands frequently
Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer, particularly before leaving a restroom, eating or touching your face. Wash your hands for about 20 seconds, about as long as it takes to sing “Happy Birthday.” When visiting a public restroom, use a paper towel to turn off the faucet and open the door when leaving.
Get the flu shot if you’re pregnant or trying to conceive
Keep all your vaccines and vaccinations up to date, especially if you’re trying to conceive. Besides getting the seasonal flu shot, get the MMR vaccine for measles, mumps, and rubella and a relatively new vaccine called Tdap, for tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis, or whooping cough.
Stand up for your health
If someone near you is ill, move away or ask to be reseated, if you can. If a waitress’s hands touch your food or the rim of your glass, don’t be embarrassed or hesitant about asking for a new serving or moving on and eating elsewhere. These are especially important tips for women who are pregnant or trying to conceive, who didn’t get the flu shot.
Pregnant women and women trying to conceive can avoid getting the flu in other ways:
- Limiting contact with others who are sick
- Coughing or sneezing into a tissue or an arm
- Not touching the eyes, nose and mouth
- Washing hands with soap and water before touching others
- Using hand sanitizers
- Using hot, soapy water or a dishwasher to wash the dishes and utensils
- Not sharing the dishes, glasses, utensils or toothbrushes.
Also, people who live with pregnant women or women trying to conceive – or who are in close contact with them – should get the flu shot.
I welcome your comments on getting the flu vaccine if you’re trying to get pregnant below, but I can’t offer medical or health advice about vaccinations or fertility.
If you’re not sure how to conceive a baby, read How to Know When You’re Ovulating.
Source: Flu Vaccine for Expectant Moms A Top Priority: Getting a Flu Shot Helps Moms Help Their Babies, from The March of Dimes. This organization for pregnancy and baby health works to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality; and Flu Myths and Legends: Mayo Clinic Expert Dispels 5 Common Flu Misconceptions.