Getting an annual flu shot is important for people who are considered at risk, and pregnant women are part of that high-risk group. A flu shot will protect you and your baby against the flu and its complications.
Why pregnant women need a flu shot
According to the Canadian Institutes of Health Resources, expectant mothers in all stages of pregnancy — even those with high-risk pregnancies — should protect themselves with a flu shot. The flu shot is especially important for women in the second and third trimesters of their pregnancies because they are at a higher risk of being hospitalized with complications from the flu.
Pregnancy places stress on the immune system as well as on the heart and lungs. This increases a woman’s risk of contracting the flu as well as experiencing complications such as pneumonia and respiratory distress. These complications may lead to early birth, premature labor and even death. Getting a flu shot as soon as it is available is the best way to lower your risk of contracting the flu.
Flu shot protects your baby
The flu shot protects your baby before and after she is born. Infants are at a high risk of complications from the flu but cannot have flu shots until they are 6 months old. When you get a flu shot during pregnancy, the antibodies you develop pass on to your baby through the placenta and through your breast milk. That’s why a flu shot is essential to your baby’s health.
When to have a flu shot
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization advises pregnant women to get their flu shot as soon as it is available, preferably in October or November. The antibodies take about two weeks to become effective in your system and protect you against the flu, so the sooner you get it, the more quickly you are protected. If you are unable to get a flu shot early on, however, get it as soon as you are able. The flu season generally runs between October and May, so protection is necessary at some point during this time period. Also, request the flu shot instead of the nasal spray vaccine. The flu shot is made of dead, (inactivated) viruses, while the nasal spray vaccine is made from live viruses. The flu shot is the safest choice for you and your baby during pregnancy.