Many women balk at extra medications or vaccines during pregnancy; after all, it makes sense to think about how something that is beneficial for Mom could have a different effect on a developing infant. However, the recommendations are clear from the CDC and other reputable organizations who have done the scientific research: get that flu shot!
Value of the Flu Shot
Remember how vaccines work: by exposing your body to the inactivated virus just enough to develop a resistance, your body becomes quite strong if it encounters the real, live virus in the future. Each year, the flu vaccine is developed specifically to address current strains that are likely to be common throughout the Fall, Winter, and Spring, when the flu rages the worst. Each year, the flu claims tens of thousands of lives, some years with tolls reaching into the 30,000-50,000 range. For this reason, the flu itself is much, much more dangerous than the vaccine itself.
One of the nice things about getting a flu shot is that you contribute not only to your own health and your baby's health, but also to the health of those around you. The virus spreads far less quickly and virulently when many of the population have had the vaccine, a phenomenon known as herd immunity. While most deaths from flu do occur in vulnerable populations like the elderly, getting the flu shot yourself is one way to help make sure that people everywhere are less likely to be exposed to the virus.
Recommendations and Benefits
The recommendations are clear; the flu is dangerous to pregnant women and their babies, and the flu shot is effective at either reducing the effects of the flu or preventing the flu altogether. By safeguarding your baby through this vaccine, you can remove one worry from your list as an expectant Mom. In fact, much of this prevention becomes helpful after the baby is born as well; in those first few months of life, babies are especially vulnerable as they build up immunities. Some of your immunity will be passed on to baby, protecting him or her in case of exposure to the flu during those first few months of life. Because of this vulnerability, encouraging anyone else who will be interacting with or holding baby to get a flu shot is also a great idea.
It is possible that you'll experience mild side effects for a day or two after getting the flu vaccine, like fatigue or muscle aches, and you are always welcome to call your doctor if you are worried that you are having an allergic reaction (a very very rare side effect), but in general, getting the flu shot is a healthy, nearly hassle-free way to reduce your risk of getting the flu and help your baby start life with a great immunity.
Cautions in Pregnancy
Any trimester is a fine time to get your flu shot, and breastfeeding moms can also get the flu shot so that they avoid the negative outcome of getting the flu and exposing their young infant to it. The one caution to consider is that, if in the past you've opted for the nasal spray version of the vaccine, it is not recommended for pregnant women, because the flu shot contains inactivated while the nasal spray contains live but weakened versions.
Want to learn more about the values of the flu vaccine and specifically the way for it to be administered to pregnant women? Check out the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's FAQ and speak with your doctor. You'll find that the recommendations have the best in mind for your child and for your health as well.