Annually half a million people in the US are hospitalized for influenza related conditions. This makes it necessary for preventive care including flu shots. Women are often apprehensive if it is safe to take a flu shot while pregnant and this apprehension also depends on the trimester. Here are hard facts that will help to clear all apprehensions about the safety of taking flu shots during pregnancy.
What are the advantages of taking a flu shot while pregnant?
The advantages of taking a flu shot while pregnant are manifold. This includes prevention of flu and its associated complications. Well documented studies and statistics clearly indicate that pregnant women are more at risk of contracting illnesses from flu. This therefore puts pregnant women in the high risk category, warranting a flu shot. The possibility of the child being born with health problems increases manifold when a pregnant woman has fever during the early stages of pregnancy. A flu shot at the right time will help prevent fetal health complications. The biggest advantage is the protection that the new born will receive. Flu vaccination cannot be administered to babies till the infant crosses 6 months. A flu shot administered during pregnancy will help in the development of antibodies which then pass on through the placenta and the later through breast milk to the baby. This protects the child from influenza till the time the child is vaccinated after six months.
Which is the safest vaccination to take while pregnant – nasal spray or flu shot?
There are two types of vaccination that may be offered – the nasal spray and the flu shot. The flu shot is considered to be the safest as it is developed from an inactivated virus. This makes it a safe option for the mother as well as the child in the womb. This is regardless of any stage of pregnancy. Medically, the nasal spray is not a recommended option for women who are pregnant, as it is developed from a live virus. Therefore, women in any stage of pregnancy are not recommended to take the nasal spray. Certain multi dose vaccines contain a small amount of thimerosal which is a mercury based preservative. It is not known to cause any side effects or adverse effects, with the only known effects being slight swelling or redness at the entry point of the injection needle. It is regarded as safe to take a flu shot while pregnant even when the vaccine contains a small amount of thimerosal. However, there are alternative options without thimerosal, in the event that there is apprehension about the mercury based preservative.
When is it necessary and safe to get a flu shot while pregnant?
As mentioned above, it is totally safe to take flu shot while pregnant during any trimester of pregnancy. It is especially important to take a flu shot during flu season, which typically starts early October and lasts till the end of May. Experts recommend that flu shots should be taken as early as possible during the flu season, which will ensure protection right from the beginning. Immunity levels reduce with time and it is therefore necessary for pregnant women to get immunized during pregnancy, even if a flu shot was taken the previous year. It is also essential that breastfeeding women take the flu shot to protect themselves and also to prevent passing on the flu to the child. This is particularly important considering the fact that new born infants are administered the vaccine only after six months. Breastfeeding women who fall sick and contract other illnesses as a result of flu are likely to pass on infections to the child. This makes it necessary for protection during this very important stage of childbirth.
Common side effects that could be experienced by pregnant women when taking a flu shot?
Pregnant women who take a flu shot may experience side effects which are exactly the same as those experienced by other individuals. For instance, mild side effects such as redness and swelling at the site of injection, nausea, tiredness, mild fever or headache and pain in the muscles are likely to be experienced. Any side effect that occurs, typically lasts for a maximum of two days from the time the injection is administered. Instances of allergic reactions to flu shots are very rare and depend on the individuals allergies to the ingredients in vaccines. Pregnant women with known allergies to vaccination need to seek medical advice to ascertain if it is safe to take a flu shot while pregnant. This is especially important in the case of pregnant women with serious allergies and allergies to egg.
Misconceptions about miscarriage due to flu shots
There are misconceptions and apprehensions that taking a flu shot while pregnant can result in a miscarriage. However, studies and data reveal that there is no link between miscarriage and flu shots. A study by the CDC showed that pregnant women who received a flu shot during any trimester were not exposed to any risk of miscarriage. The findings of the study concluded that taking a flu shot during pregnancy is recommended to prevent hospitalization and also to ensure the well-being of the child in the womb and immediately after birth.
Preventive measures for pregnant women with egg allergies
Individuals including pregnant women with egg allergies can receive the flu shot with the required safety protocols. For instance, age-appropriate IIV, or LAIV4 or RiV4 vaccines are considered as suitable for individuals with egg allergies. Pregnant women or individuals who have had episodes of severe allergic reactions consequent to a flu shot, need to receive the vaccination under close supervision by a specialist in appropriate healthcare settings. This is necessary to handle possible allergic reactions. Individuals with extreme allergies that are life threatening in nature are not to take the flu shot, while individuals known egg allergies can opt for egg-free flu vaccines. Presently quadrivalent recombinant and quadrivalent cell based vaccines are the two egg free vaccines.