What is the flu?
- Influenza, the flu, is a seasonal, respiratory virus that typically presents with a fever, cough, headaches, body aches, fatigue and in children, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Most people recover without complications however children under the age of 5, pregnant women, those over age 65 and those with medical conditions such as asthma and heart disease are at higher risk of flu-related complications.
- Flu-related complications in pregnancy include pneumonia, hospitalization, preterm labor, preterm delivery, and in rare cases, death.
What is the flu vaccine?
- There are two versions of the vaccine, an inactivated injection that is safe and recommend for anyone over six months of age, and a nasal spray. The nasal spray, because it is live, is contraindicated in pregnancy.
- The inactivated injection is safe and recommended for every pregnant woman because it decreases the risk of influenza pneumonia by 50% and the risk of hospitalization by 40%. It takes 2 weeks for the body to make antibodies after a vaccination. The antibodies a pregnant woman makes can cross the placenta and be shared with the baby which will help protect the baby after birth.
Is the flu vaccine safe in pregnancy?
- Prior to vaccines being made available to the public, the FDA must grant approval. After distribution to the public the CDC continues to monitor vaccines. Millions of pregnant women have received the flu vaccine and it does not cause birth defects. There is no scientific evidence that the flu vaccines, even those containing thimerosal, cause autism.
What are the side effects of the vaccine?
- Side effects after receiving the flu vaccine include a sore arm and possibly a mildly elevated temperature. The low-grade fever is an immune reaction as antibody production increases. The inactivated flu vaccine is not alive and cannot cause the flu. Side effects should resolve within 1-2 days. If you have had a severe reaction to a vaccine in the past such as guillain-barré syndrome or anaphylaxis, please consult your provider prior to getting a vaccine.
When should the flu vaccine be administered?
- Flu season in the United States is from October to May. Pregnant women should receive the vaccine as soon as it is available to protect themselves and their baby early. It is safe to receive the vaccine at any time during pregnancy.
What if a pregnant woman is exposed to the flu?
- If a pregnant woman is diagnosed with the flu or comes in contact with a person known to have a positive flu test, she should immediately contact her OBGYN because Oseltamivir, TamiFlu, can decrease her risk of contracting the flu.