Should I Have the Flu Vaccine During Pregnancy?

Flu Vaccine During Pregnancy - A pregnant woman getting vaccine injection
A pregnant woman getting vaccine injection

Are you wondering should you have the flu vaccine during pregnancy? The influenza virus, generally known as the flu, can result in serious sickness. There’s more to it than just a sore throat and runny nose. You can become quite ill with the flu, and getting it during or immediately after pregnancy can be particularly dangerous.

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What is Flu (Influenza)?

Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is a viral respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. The flu is spread from person to person through respiratory secretions, such as saliva, mucus, or nasal secretions, when an infected person talks, coughs, or sneezes. Symptoms of the flu include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, and fatigue. The flu can be prevented by getting a flu vaccination every year.

How Does the Flu Spread?

It’s simple for the flu to travel from person to person. The influenza virus spreads through the air when a person with the illness coughs, sneezes, or speaks. If you breathe it in or contact something that has the flu virus on it (such as a door handle or a phone) and then touch your nose, eyes, or mouth, you could contract the illness.

From the day before they become ill until 5 to 7 days following, people with the flu may still be able to spread the infection. Children or those who are quite ill with the flu may spread it for a longer period of time, especially if they still exhibit symptoms.

How Can the Flu Affect Your Pregnancy?

Particularly if you’re pregnant, health issues from the flu, such as pneumonia, can be serious and even fatal. Pregnant women are more likely than other adults to experience significant complications from the flu. The flu shot is best received prior to becoming pregnant. Getting vaccinated against the flu can help lower your risk of contracting it, developing significant flu complications, and necessitating hospital care.

Preterm labor (labor that occurs before 37 weeks of pregnancy) and premature delivery (birth that occurs before 37 weeks of pregnancy) are more common in pregnant women who contract the flu than in pregnant women who do not. Flu-related fever may increase your baby’s risk of birth defects such neural tube defects as well as other issues. An illness that is present at birth is referred to as a birth defect. Birth defects alter the appearance or functionality of one or more body parts. They may affect a person’s general health, how their body develops, or how their body functions. Birth malformations of the brain and spinal cord are known as neural tube defects.

How can Getting a Flu Vaccine During Pregnancy Protect You ?

A vaccine that aids in preventing the flu is included in the flu shot. Flu cannot be brought on by the flu vaccination. Although receiving a flu vaccination during pregnancy is safe, it is recommended that you wait until flu season (October through May). Even though flu season is when you’re most likely to have it, you can still acquire it at any time of year.

Flu viruses come in a wide variety and are constantly evolving. The three or four influenza viruses that are most likely to cause illness during the forthcoming flu season are the targets of a new flu vaccine that is produced each year. It’s crucial to get a flu shot every year since the protection it provides only lasts for roughly a year. Your doctor can give you the shot, and many pharmacies and workplaces also administer it each fall. To find out where you can get the flu shot, use the HealthMap Vaccine Finder.

Can Pregnant Women have a Flu Vaccination Without Risks?

Most pregnant women can receive the flu vaccination without any risk. If you have any serious allergies or if you’ve ever experienced a severe adverse reaction to a flu vaccination, let your doctor know. Flu vaccines seldom cause severe adverse responses. Consult your physician to find out if the flu vaccination is safe for you if you’re concerned that you could be allergic to it.

The production of some flu vaccinations uses eggs. Egg allergy sufferers can typically obtain the flu shot. However, if you have severe egg allergies, obtain the shot from a healthcare professional who is experienced in treating such allergies and allergic reactions in a medical setting (such as a doctor’s office, hospital, or clinic).

Flu nasal spray shouldn’t be used on pregnant women. This spray is applied to your nose.

What are Symptoms of Flu?

A condition’s symptoms are something that another person can observe in you or learn about you from, such as a rash or a cough. Symptoms are invisible to others but felt by you, such as a sore throat or a feeling of wooziness. Flu symptoms and indicators frequently include:

• Feeling sleepy or exhausted (also called fatigue)
• Cough
• Fever of 100 F or above, chills, or shaking of the body. A temperature is not always present in flu patients.
• Sore throat
• Headache, muscle or body pains
• A runny or stuffy nose
• Vomiting or diarrhea (more common in children)

The flu frequently develops swiftly. Most other symptoms, including fever, can linger a week or longer. However, some people, such as kids, seniors over 65, pregnant women, and new mothers, can suffer from the flu for a protracted period of time.

If you experience any of these indications or symptoms, dial 911 and seek immediate medical attention:

• A high fever that doesn’t go away after taking acetaminophen (Tylenol®). Never use a medication without first consulting your doctor
• Feel your baby move less or not at all
• Flu signs or symptoms that improve but then return with fever and a stronger
Pain or pressure in the chest or belly
• Sudden disorientation or confusion
• Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
• Severe or persistent vomiting

How is the Flu Treated During Pregnancy?

Call your doctor straight away if you suspect you have the flu despite having had the vaccine. To assist treat or prevent the flu, she might recommend an antiviral medication. Antivirals eliminate viral infections. They can help you feel better more quickly and make your flu milder. Antivirals can also aid in avoiding major flu side effects including pneumonia. Antivirals for the flu are most effective when used within two days of the onset of symptoms. Serious flu complications can be prevented with prompt antiviral treatment.

Inform your healthcare practitioner if you were in close contact with someone who had the flu during your pregnancy or in the two weeks following giving birth. In order to help prevent you from catching the flu and experiencing catastrophic problems, your doctor may decide to treat you with an antiviral medication even if you don’t have any flu-related signs or symptoms.

In order to prevent or treat the flu in expectant mothers and those who have just given birth, three medications have been licensed in the US. Find out which one is best for you by speaking with your provider:

  • Oseltamivir (brand name Tamiflu®). This medication is available as a liquid or pill.
  • Zanamivir (brand name Relenza®). You breathe in a powdered form of this medication. For those with respiratory issues like asthma, it is not advised.
  • Peramivir (brand name Rapivab®). A healthcare professional administers this medication by inserting a needle into a vein (also known as an IV).

Call your healthcare practitioner as soon as possible and inquire about taking acetaminophen if you have a fever. Get lots of rest and drink lots of water if you have the flu. You might not feel like eating much. To aid in the healing of your body, try eating smaller meals.

Related: Vaccination During Pregnancy (Beyond the Basics)

How Can You Stop the Flu from Spreading?

You can infect others with the flu if you already have it. What you can do to stop it from spreading is as follows:

• If you’re unwell, stay at home and avoid interacting with people.
• Avoid kissing people.
• Use a tissue or your arm to sneeze or cough into. Put used tissues in the garbage.
• Try to avoid touching your mouth, nose, or eyes.
• Before touching anybody, wash your hands with soap and water. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are another option.
• Use hot, soapy water or a dishwasher to wash your dishes and utensils.
•Don’t let anybody else use your toothbrush, utensils, or glasses.

Why is the Flu so Harmful During Pregnancy?

Because pregnancy has an impact on your heart, lungs, and immune system, the flu can be harmful during pregnancy. Your body defends itself against diseases and disorders via your immune system. Your immune system works arduously to combat viruses when your body detects something that could be harmful to your health, such as a virus.

Your immune system doesn’t react to infections as quickly when you are pregnant as it did before. Your body is aware that being pregnant is normal and shouldn’t cause it to reject your child. Therefore, in order to accommodate the development of your growing kid, your body naturally reduces the immune system’s capacity to defend you and fight off diseases. However, a weakened immune system increases your risk of contracting viruses like the flu.

Your lungs require more oxygen during pregnancy, especially in the second and third trimesters, which is another reason why the flu can be dangerous. Your lungs have to work harder in a smaller space as a result of the pressure your expanding belly exerts on them. You might even experience occasional breathing difficulties. Your heart is also working very hard. It’s working hard to get blood to both you and the baby. This all indicates that your body is under stress throughout pregnancy. Your likelihood of contracting the flu may increase due to this physical strain. You are more likely than other women to experience major health issues from the flu if you are pregnant or recently gave birth.

Related: What are Best 10 Prenatal Vitamins for a Healthy Pregnancy?

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