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Should I Get the Flu Shot While Pregnant?

I am pregnant and it is flu season. What do I do? Should I get a flu shot?

Achooo!  Yes, its that time of year again. FLU SEASON!  This year however, you are pregnant. Should you get the flu shot? YES!

It is perfectly safe to get the flu shot in pregnancy. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends all pregnant
women get the flu shot during pregnancy between the months of October through March.

Is the flu shot safe for the baby?  Is there a better time to get the flu shot during pregnancy?  Yes, the flu shot is safe for the baby and in fact can really help the baby.   The baby can’t get a flu vaccine until after 6 months of life. By you getting the shot, it crosses the placenta and provides immunity to the baby.  It is perfectly safe to get the flu shot in any trimester of pregnancy.  Obviously it is best to get it before the baby comes out!
During pregnancy, the complications of getting the flu can be very dangerous for the baby and the mother.  These complications can include miscarriage, preterm labor and or delivery, respiratory issues, and even death.

So why is it so dangerous to get the flu during pregnancy?  The first reason is, that pregnancy itself can affect the mothers immune system, making it more difficult to fight off infection.  It makes it harder for the mother to fend off the infection and therefore serious complications can occur.

The second reason is that the normal physiologic changes in the mother’s respiratory system make the flu difficult to handle. As the pregnancy goes on, the diaphragm shifts up reducing the lung space and decreasing the lungs ability to get air in by 20%.  If there is an infection that affects the lungs, it makes it much worse because they already are functioning at 80%.   If the lungs are compromised, that can affect the oxygen in mom’s system and then lead to complications with baby.

The third reason the flu is dangerous in pregnancy has to do with the decrease in oxygen itself.  In normal pregnancy the oxygen requirement goes up because now you are breathing for two.  When you develop the flu and your lungs fill with mucous you are more likely to develop a secondary infection like pneumonia.  You cannot take deep breaths like normal, because the baby is pushing your organs up and there is just not enough room.  This leads to shallow breathing and a decrease in oxygenation.  If the baby does not get oxygen it can lead to problems
with development, fetal distress, preterm delivery and even fetal death.

So what should you do? Protect yourself and your baby by PREVENTING the flu by getting vaccinated.  You can get a flu shot at any CVS or Walgreens and some health care providers have them available in their office. Most insurances do cover the flu shot.  Make sure you tell the person you are getting the flu shot from that you are pregnant so you get the actual shot not the nasal spray. The nasal spray has a live virus which we would not want to give in pregnancy.

If you develop flu like symptoms and a fever, make sure you get in to see your doctor right away. Early diagnosis is key to helping prevent some of the complications. There is a medication available called Tamiflu that greatly reduces symptoms of the flu but must be taken early on in the diagnosis to get maximum benefit.  Tamiflu does not cure you but decreases the symptoms and the length of time you have symptoms.

Bottom line:  GO GET THE FLU SHOT!!!!

Tampa Bay Parenting 2014 Dr. Jill HechtmanJill Hechtman started her medical career at Ross University School of Medicine in Portsmouth Dominica. After medical school she started an anesthesiology residency in Chicago at RUSH University, where she met the love of her life, Dr. Jason Hechtman. After completing two years of Anesthesiology, Jill decided that she desired to be an OB/GYN, and transferred to Wayne State University for her four year residency in OB/GYN.  After completion, both Jason and Jill moved to Tampa. 

Since moving to Tampa, Jill has become the Medical Director of Tampa Obstetrics and is currently also serving as the Chairman of Obstetrics and Gynecology at St. Joseph’s Women’s Hospital in Tampa. She is the past Chairman of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Brandon Regional Hospital and served on the hospital’s Board of Trustees for 2 years. She is a frequent face in local media as “Dr. Jill” and is also answers reader questions as our Dr. Mom. Jill was also recently appointed as a member of the Florida House of Representatives Medicaid Low Income Pool Council. She is also featured in various videos about pregnancy, which can be found on her website under “Patient Education”. One of her proudest moments was the birth of her daughter.  The two of them share a common interest in horses.

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