Influenza (also called “the flu”) is more likely to cause severe illness for healthy, pregnant women compared to those women who are healthy and not pregnant. During pregnancy, a woman’s body has changes in the heart, lungs, and immune system, which makes them more prone to severe illness with the flu.
Getting the flu while pregnant can raise the risks of pregnancy complications as well. This include premature labor, early delivery, and heart infections. Studies show that vaccinating a pregnant women will pass the antibodies on the baby so the child will be protected from the flu for at least 6 months after the birth. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that pregnant women receive a flu shot during any trimester of pregnancy to protect themselves and the unborn child. The nasal spray used to immunize against influenza is not recommended, however.
Is it safe for pregnant women and their unborn children to get a flu shot?
The flu shot has been given safely to many pregnant women over the past few decades. Much scientific literature supports the safety of the flu vaccine in pregnant women, as well as the unborn babies. The CDC is continuing to get data regarding this topic.
What side effects do pregnant women experience with the flu shot?
The most common side effects pregnant women experience are the same as other people who receive the flu vaccine. These side effects are mild and include:
- Soreness, swelling, and redness at the site
- Muscle aches
When side effects occur, they typically begin right after the influenza shot is given, and they only last for a couple of days. It is rare for someone to have an allergic reaction to the flu shot, as healthcare professionals screen for risk factors.
Can pregnant women who have egg allergies receive the flu shot?
Most people who have an allergy to eggs should not receive the flu shot. A person with a severe allergy to any vaccine component, such as egg protein, is at risk for a life-threatening anaphylactic reaction. Pregnant women need to tell the healthcare workers about their allergies before getting immunized.
How is the safety of flu vaccines monitored in pregnant women?
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) conducts ongoing safety monitoring on all vaccines licensed for use in the United States. The CDC and FDA use two systems to monitor the influenza vaccine safety for women during pregnancy. These include:
- Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) – This is an early warning system that monitors for problems during vaccination. Anyone can report vaccine side effects, and health concerns that arise after vaccination. These reports also help indicate if further investigations are necessary.
- Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD) – This is a collaboration between many health organizations that uses ongoing monitoring approaches and searchers of vaccine data.
Have studies been conducted by the CDC regarding flu vaccine safety during pregnancy?
Many studies were conducted by the CDC and partner organizations. A review of VAERS in 2011 found no link between pregnancy complication or fetal outcomes among women who received a flu shot while pregnant. In addition, a study involving VSD in 2013 found no increased adverse obstetric events for these women, which included pre-eclampsia, chorioamnionitis, and gestational hypertension.
Can a breastfeeding woman get the flu shot?
Breastfeeding women are encouraged to get the flu vaccine, according to the CDC. If the mother gets influenza, it could pass on to her newborn infant, which puts the baby at great risk.
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