Influenza and conditions that are attributed to the flu account for as much as 500,000 hospitalizations annually in the US. Consequently, a large section of society takes preventive shots to safeguard from flu. While most individuals find it safe to take flu shots at the right intervals, pregnant women are often plagued with doubt about the safety of flu shots. The doubts are basically covered in two questions – is it safe to take flu shots while pregnant? and what is the best month to get a flu shot?

We will take an informed look to clear apprehensions about both the questions with clear evidence backed information. Before we look at the answers it is important to understand that the safest practice is to take flu shots every year to safeguard against influenza. The immunity of the body decreases over time and the shot received in the previous year may not actually protect a person in the following year. It is therefore vital to remain protected during the flu season by taking flu shots periodically, and by carefully working out the best time to take the shots.

Is it really important to take a flu shot during pregnancy?

As mentioned above, it is essential to take flu shots every year. This effectively includes even pregnant women. However, the question is if it is safe for pregnant women to take the shots and what is the best month to get a flu shot? To answer the first question, it is perfectly safe for pregnant women to take the flu shots barring a few exceptions. The women for whom the shots are unsafe are explained in detail below. The simple answer to the second question is – the shots can be taken during any trimester of pregnancy. Therefore, pregnant women can take it without apprehensions of the period of pregnancy. However, it is advised to take the shots as early as possible when the flu seas begins to ensure complete protection.

In the US, the flu season is typically accepted to begin in the month of October and run through till May. While there is a peak season between December to February, the season lasts for the period of eight months. Pregnant women are likely to have an overlap of their trimesters with the flu season. Therefore, all pregnant women are expected to take flu shots for protection.

What are the typical side effects of flu shots?

Side effects while taking flu shots are a possibility and there is no distinction between pregnant women and other categories of individuals. The possible side effects are the same. Pregnancy does not elevate or expose women to increased risk of side effects. Commonly experienced side effects by all individuals include swelling at the site of administering the shot with or without redness. Other side effects include tiredness, muscle pain and headache apart from fever that is mild. Before we look further into the question – what is the best month to get a flu shot it is necessary to understand that allergies to flu shots are effectively rare. The actual allergic reactions of individuals to flu shots have got to do with the allergies of the individuals to the active ingredients in the vaccine. This includes allergies to egg/egg based products and other serious allergies.

Are there alternative options for women with allergies?

Allergies can be broadly classified into two categories for the purpose of answering this question. First category of common allergies – Women with egg allergies can opt for egg free flu vaccines which will dispense with the need for medical supervision and apprehensions of adverse reactions. Alternatively, women can also choose RiV4 or LAIV4 or IIV as alternate options.

Second category of serious allergies – Women with serious allergies that are known to be life endangering in nature are advised to not take the flu shots. However, women with other severe allergic reactions that are not life threatening in nature can take the shots under close medical supervision. This will help tackle any possible adverse reaction, while ensuring that the women are protected from the flu.

What is the best month to get a flu shot?

As explained above, the best month to get a flu shot is effectively as early as possible when the flu season starts. This will ensure that the protection remains in force through though the flu season and the period of pregnancy. For instance, a women who is in her third month of pregnancy during September should take the shots before October, which will give complete protection throughout pregnancy. Similarly, if a woman is in her first month of pregnancy in December, it is important to take the shot as soon as possible to ensure protection throughout the flu season. Both the above examples are on the premise that the pregnant women have not taken flu shots in the months preceding the period. Therefore, the answer to the question – what is the best month to get a flu shot – is as early as possible as soon as the flu season starts.

Are there different types of vaccination? If yes, which type is the better choice?

Now that the question – what is the best month to get a flu shot – has been clarified, it is important to take a look at the different types. Two different types of vaccination are presently administered – nasal spray and the flu shot. For pregnant women, the safest choice is the flu shot. This is mainly because the flu shot is developed from an inactivated virus, unlike the nasal spray which is developed from a live virus. The flu shot is safe throughout all months of pregnancy and can be safely administered to all pregnant women with the exception of the categories mentioned above. Vaccines that contain thimerosal are likely to trigger side effects that are minor in nature – for instance inflammation and redness at the site of administration of the injection. Alternatives are available for individuals who apprehend strong side effects from mercury based preservatives.

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