During pregnancy, expecting moms are very careful of everything they put into their bodies, so there may be concerns about receiving flu shots. The flu vaccine, however, is deemed safe at any stage of pregnancy and while breastfeeding. Flu vaccines have been given to millions of pregnant women over the years, and no study has ever found a link between flu shots and problems for mom or baby. There is, however, clear evidence that getting the flu while pregnant is a problem. Your heart and lungs have to work extra hard while you are pregnant and your immune system can also be affected. This makes you more vulnerable to catching the flu and being hospitalized with serious complications such as pneumonia. These complications may cause preterm labour and birth putting you and baby at risk. Fever – part of the flu - can increase the risk of neural tube defects and possibly miscarriage. Evidence also shows that babies whose moms had the flu during pregnancy have a higher risk of neurological problems. The flu shot is therefore highly recommended for expectant moms.
The flu shot can even protect your baby after birth. Because their immune systems are not mature yet, babies who catch the flu are very vulnerable to complications and serious illness. They cannot be vaccinated until they are 6 months old. Getting the flu shot while pregnant may give your newborn baby some protection from your antibodies that are passed through the placenta. If you and your household members are vaccinated, the baby is also less likely to be exposed to the flu virus.
The flu shot needs to be repeated every year because the virus that causes the flu mutates rapidly and each year the vaccination is designed to kill the strains that are circulating this season. It’s best to get the flu shot in September or October in Canada as soon as the vaccine is available so you are protected when the flu season begins. But even if you miss that window, the flu season lasts until May, so it would still be worthwhile to get the vaccine.
Check out www.fightflu.ca for more information.