Flu shot in pregnancy: Is it safe?

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Flu shot in pregnancy: Is it safe?

Question

Is it safe to get a flu shot during pregnancy?

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Answer

Yes, it's safe to get an influenza (flu) shot during pregnancy.

In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a flu shot for anyone who's pregnant during flu season — typically early October through late March.

Pregnancy puts extra stress on your heart and lungs. Pregnancy can also affect your immune system. These factors increase the risk of getting the flu during pregnancy, as well as developing serious complications of the flu — such as pneumonia and difficulty breathing.

Flu during pregnancy also seems to increase the risk of miscarriage, premature birth and low birth weight.

A flu shot can help prevent these potential problems. Better yet, a flu shot during pregnancy helps protect your baby after birth.

Infants are at high risk of complications from the flu, but childhood flu vaccines can't begin until a baby is 6 months old. If you have a flu shot during pregnancy, however, the antibodies you develop will pass through the placenta to help protect your baby from the flu.

In a 2011 study, babies whose mothers had a flu shot during pregnancy were nearly 50 percent less likely to be diagnosed with the flu during their first flu season than were babies whose mothers didn't have a flu shot during pregnancy.

When you get your flu shot, be sure to request the flu shot and not the nasal spray vaccine. The flu shot is made from an inactivated virus, so it's safe for both mother and baby during any stage of pregnancy. The nasal spray vaccine is made from a live virus, which makes it less appropriate during pregnancy or while you're trying to conceive.

If you're allergic to eggs, check with your doctor before receiving a flu shot. You might need to take special precautions, such as waiting in the doctor's office for at least 30 minutes after vaccination in case of a reaction.

Also check with your doctor if you had a severe reaction to a previous flu vaccine. Although the vaccine isn't recommended for anyone who had a severe reaction in the past, some reactions might not be related to the vaccine.

The flu shot available during the 2012-2013 flu season offers protection from both H1N1 flu (swine flu) and seasonal flu.

Last Updated: 2012-09-08
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