“I just found out I am pregnant. I’ve heard that it is really important to get the flu shot this fall, but is it still OK now that I am pregnant?” The woman on the other end of the phone line sounded cautious and concerned. I told her, “I’m so glad you called to ask about this. The influenza vaccination may be even more important for pregnant women. The coronavirus pandemic has given us a lot to worry about without adding influenza infections to the mix. Let me tell you more about this….”
Influenza and Pregnancy
Once we are into influenza season (October to March), pregnant women are strongly recommended to get immunized, regardless of where they are in their pregnancy. Yet, many women delay, and in the end only about 50% of pregnant women get their flu shot.
An influenza infection itself can cause severe illness and even death in pregnant and post-partum women. It is important to remember that a healthy mother is more likely to have a healthy baby! The injectable version of the influenza immunization (“flu shot“) contains an inactivated (dead) virus and is not going to make you or your baby sick. It is the most effective way to prevent influenza or have less severe symptoms if you do get the flu. Currently, the nasal-spray flu vaccination is not recommended for pregnant women because it contains live attenuated virus.
Will the vaccine harm my baby?
Some pregnant women are worried about whether immunizations will harm their baby. The scares about vaccines being associated with problems like autism have been shown not to be true. In fact, just last month a large study was published in the journal Pediatrics, “Early Childhood Health Outcomes Following In-Utero Exposure to Influenza Vaccines: A Systemic Review.” This study compiled results from 9 earlier studies and found no association between exposure to the flu vaccine during pregnancy and adverse outcomes in children. One of the authors was later quoted as saying, “This should be reassuring for pregnant women who may be considering the vaccination…”
Are you interested in learning more about vaccinations in pregnancy or while breastfeeding? Visit the MotherToBaby website and read all of our vaccine-related fact sheets. There is a general fact sheet on all vaccines, and then specific fact sheets on the seasonal influenza vaccine and also many others like the Tetanus, Diphtheria, and Pertussis (Tdap), Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR), HPV (human papillomavirus), hepatitis A, and varicella (chicken pox) vaccinations.
Early Childhood Health Outcomes Following In Utero Exposure to Influenza Vaccines: A Systematic Review Damien Y.P. Foo, Mohinder Sarna, Gavin Pereira, Hannah C. Moore, Deshayne B. Fell, Annette K. Regan, Pediatrics Aug 2020, 146 (2) e20200375; DOI: 10.1542/peds.2020-0375