Why Are Pregnant Women Advised To Have The Flu Vaccine
The flu jab will help protect both you and your baby.
There is good evidence that pregnant women have a higher chance of developing complications if they get flu, particularly in the later stages of pregnancy.
If you have flu while you’re pregnant, it could cause your baby to be born prematurely or have a low birthweight, and may even lead to stillbirth or death.
Why You Should Get The Flu Vaccine
The flu vaccine can protect your baby from flu until they are 6 months old. It can also prevent you from getting flu and passing it on to your baby.
Dr Maeve Eogan, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, talks about why you should get the flu vaccine if you are pregnant.
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The Vaccine Protects The Baby When Theyre Born
Getting the flu shot while pregnant is the best flu-prevention strategy available for newborns. Infants cant be vaccinated until theyre at least 6 months old. However, if a woman gets the flu vaccine while shes pregnant, they are able to give antibodies to the baby which will protect babies through their first 6 months of life.
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What If I Get The Flu
Having the flu vaccine doesnt guarantee you wont catch the flu. However, if you do get it, there is some medicine you can take that may reduce your risk of complications. See your GP if you think youre getting ill.
Flu symptoms come on very quickly and can include:
- a sudden fever a temperature of 38C or above
- an aching body
Benefits Of Immunization In Pregnancy For The Mother
Vaccines recommended for the protection of a pregnant woman’s health include:
- inactivated influenza vaccine
- acellular pertussis vaccine
- hepatitis B vaccine if susceptible and with ongoing exposure risks
- hepatitis A vaccine if a close contact of a person with hepatitis A or if travelling to an endemic area
- meningococcal vaccine in an outbreak setting or post-exposure, or if indicated by medical condition
- pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine with or without conjugate vaccine if indicated by medical condition
- any other inactivated vaccine if indicated by exposure , travel or by medical condition .
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Immunization Of Household Contacts Of Pregnant Women
Pregnancy in a household does not affect immunization indications for any other members of the household. Indeed, pregnancy should be used as an opportunity to update immunization of susceptible household contacts, including live vaccines such as rotavirus, MMR, MMRV, varicella, zoster and LAIV.
In the unlikely event of a household contact being vaccinated against smallpox, extreme precautions should be taken to prevent transfer of the vaccinia virus to unvaccinated household and other close contacts, pregnant or not. Such precautions can include isolation of the vaccinee from pregnant household contacts until the vaccine scab falls off.
Get The Tdap Vaccine In Your Third Trimester
Pertussis, or whooping cough, is a bacterial infection that can cause intense and violent coughing fits, and can lead to pneumonia, convulsions, encephalopathy or even death.
According to Dr. Healy, infants younger than 6 months have a high risk of catching pertussis, and the majority of those who die from infection are younger than 3 months. Anyone whos ever heard or experienced an infant with pertussis, its something you dont forget, said Dr. Healy. They have those coughing fits that can go on for a very long time, they turn blue, they stop breathing and its horrible.
The Tdap vaccine protects against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis, but its only recommended during pregnancy for the pertussis component since a pertussis-only vaccine does not exist. Infants cant get their first Tdap dose until theyre 2 months old, so public health agencies recommend that pregnant women get it later in their pregnancies, between 27 and 36 weeks gestation, to help protect babies after theyre born and before they get their own vaccines. Studies have found, for example, that getting the Tdap vaccination in the third trimester can prevent up to 91 percent of pertussis infections in the first two months of life.
If you didnt get the Tdap vaccine while pregnant, said Dr. Healy, its a good idea to get it postpartum to reduce your risk of contracting it and passing it along to your newborn.
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Flu Vaccine Safety And Pregnancy
Questions & Answers
Note: There is no recommendation that pregnant people or people with pre-existing medical conditions need to get special permission or written consent from their doctor or health care professional for influenza vaccination if they get vaccinated at a worksite clinic, pharmacy, or other location outside of their physicians office. Pregnant people should not get nasal spray vaccine. For more information, visit Misconceptions about Seasonal Flu and Flu Vaccines.
Better Timing With Flu Vaccination Campaigns Could Protect More Pregnant Women Babies
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A study in Brazil suggested that vaccinating women earlier in the influenza season could improve birth outcomes.
Expectant mothers who had not been vaccinated against influenza and were infected had higher rates of complications, the researchers said, putting their babies at risk during birth and later in life.
Seasonal influenza already was circulating in the weeks and months before the rollout of national influenza immunization campaigns in the semiarid state of Ceará, the researchers said. Influenza circulation begins there as early as mid-March and peaks 2 to 3 months earlier than in the south and southeast of the country, yet all of Brazil sticks to the same vaccination schedule.
This misalignment was associated with seasonal patterns of premature birth, low birth weight and birth by cesarean,Sean R. Moore, MD, a pediatric gastroenterologist at the University of Virginia Childrens Hospital, said in a university press release.
The observational descriptive study included children born to mothers with severe acute respiratory infections during pregnancy and a control group of randomly selected mothers who did not have SARI during pregnancy in Ceará from 2013 to 2018.
The researchers found that 30 to 40 weeks after the peak of influenza season, the average birth weight fell by 40 g and premature birth rates increased from 10.7% to 15.5%.
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Tell Your Doctor About Any Side Effects
It is possible to see some mild side effects for a short period of time after getting immunized. “You may experience soreness at the injection site, fever, chills, muscle aches, nausea, or headache,” Dr. Langdon notes. Reach out to a healthcare provider with any concerns about your side effects.
In very rare cases, you may experience an allergic reaction. Call a healthcare provider or an emergency number immediately if you experience symptoms like breathing problems, dizziness, or a fast heartbeat.
Are There Flu Vaccines That Pregnant Women Should Not Get
The seasonal and 2009 H1N1 flu vaccines can be given by shot or by nasal spray. Pregnant women should get the “flu shot”a vaccine made with killed flu virus. This one is given with a needle, usually in the arm. The other type of flu vaccinea nasal sprayis not approved for pregnant women. This vaccine is made with live, weakened flu virus. Nasal spray flu vaccine should be used only in healthy people 2-49 years of age who are not pregnant. The nasal spray vaccine is safe for women after they have delivered, even if they are nursing.
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Why Does Cdc Advise Pregnant Women To Receive The 2009 H1n1 Influenza Vaccine
Getting the flu shot is the single best way to protect against the flu. It is important for a pregnant woman to receive both the 2009 H1N1 flu shot and the seasonal flu shot. A pregnant woman who gets any type of flu has a greater chance for serious health problems. Compared with people in general who get 2009 H1N1 flu , pregnant women with 2009 H1N1 flu are more likely to be admitted to hospitals. Pregnant women are also more likely to have serious illness and death from 2009 H1N1 flu. When a pregnant woman gets a flu shot, it can protect both her and her baby. Research has found that pregnant women who had a flu shot get sick less often with the flu than do pregnant women who did not get a flu shot. Babies born to mothers who had a flu shot in pregnancy also get sick with flu less often than do babies whose mothers did not get a flu shot.
Safety Of Immunization In Pregnancy For The Fetus And Infant
There is no theoretical reason to anticipate adverse events in the fetus or infant following vaccination with inactivated vaccines during pregnancy. There are no published data indicating that currently authorized inactivated vaccines are teratogenic or embryotoxic or have resulted in specific adverse pregnancy outcomes.
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization has concluded that vaccines that contain thimerosal are safe in pregnancy and should be used if indicated.
In general, live attenuated viral or bacterial vaccines are contraindicated in pregnancy, as there is a theoretical risk to the fetus however, when benefits outweigh this theoretical risk, vaccination with a live attenuated vaccine may be considered .
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Get The Flu Shot As Soon As Possible
Between 2009 and 2010, more than 900 expectant mothers in the United States died of the flu during the particularly devastating H1N1 pandemic that rippled across the United States. Though scientists dont entirely understand why or how pregnancy weakens the immune system, they do understand that pregnant women are especially susceptible to influenzas ill effects. Those can include severe symptoms or complications such as high fever, pneumonia, sepsis oreven death. This is especially true if its caught later in a pregnancy, explained Dr. Richard Beigi, M.D., an ob-gyn and professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
Because it can take up to two weeks for your body to build immunity against the virus, pregnant women should get the influenza vaccine just before flu season gets into full swing, ideally as soon as its available in late summer or early fall, said Dr. Beigi, or by October at the latest. If you miss that window, however, its never too late to get it. Whats most important is that you do get it.
Flu Shot Recommendations For Pregnant Women
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older, including pregnant and breastfeeding women, get the flu shot each year. Pregnant women are more likely than non-pregnant women of reproductive age to develop complications from the flu because of pregnancy-related changes in the immune system, heart, and lungs.
The flu also may be dangerous for the fetus: Fever, a common symptom of flu, has been linked to neural tube defects and other birth defects.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists also recommends that pregnant women get vaccinated against the flu during pregnancy. Pregnant women should get the flu shot, which contains an inactivated virus, and not the nasal spray vaccine, which contains a live, attenuated virus.
ACOG says that the flu shot does double duty by protecting both mothers and their babies.
Babies cannot get the flu vaccine until they are 6 months old. When you get a flu shot during pregnancy, the protective antibodies made in your body are transferred to your baby, ACOG explains. These antibodies will protect your baby against the flu until he or she can get the shot at 6 months of age.
There is a large body of evidence that says the flu shot is safe for pregnant women.
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Why Has The Flu Jab Been Linked To Miscarriage
In 2017, a research study in the US suggested a possible link between the flu vaccine and miscarriage. This had a lot of media interest, which led people to ask if having the flu vaccine in pregnancy is safe for their baby.
Its completely understandable to worry about vaccine safety when youre pregnant. But this small piece of research did not show that the flu vaccine causes miscarriage.
The study in question looked at women who had been given a swine flu vaccine between 2010 and 2012 and whether this increased their risk of miscarriage. These are the reasons the results from this study were too weak:
Getting the flu is harmful in pregnancy and increases the risk of problems for the baby. Public health authorities in the US and the UK still recommend that every pregnant woman has the flu jab to reduce these risks.
Why Should Pregnant People Get A Flu Shot
Influenza is more likely to cause severe illness in pregnant people than in people of reproductive age who are not pregnant. Changes to the immune system, heart, and lungs during pregnancy make people more susceptible to influenza severe enough to cause hospitalization throughout pregnancy and up to two weeks postpartum. Influenza also may be harmful for the developing baby. A common influenza symptom fever may be associated with neural tube defects and other adverse outcomes for a developing baby. Parental vaccination also can help protect a baby from influenza after birth .
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How Can I Protect Myself And My Unborn Child From The Flu
Get vaccinated as soon as the vaccine is available in your area. You will need to get the flu shot. The nasal spray flu vaccine is not recommended for pregnant women. If you get the flu shot during your pregnancy, research shows it provides some protection to your baby both while you are pregnant and after the baby is born.
In addition, follow the tips outlined below to keep you and your baby healthy this flu season.
Flu Is Universal But The Risk Of Dying From It Isnt
The flu is a contagious respiratory infection that, according to WHO, typically infects an estimated 5-10 percent of adults and 20-30 percent of children each year. It typically causes fever, sore throat, headaches, and a cough, and while its not fun, its usually not deadly. However, there are an estimated 3-5 million cases of severe illness and 290,000-650,000 deaths from the flu each year. Last year, the United States had its deadliest flu season in decades, with 80,000 deaths.
As global research on flu slowly increases, studies are beginning to show that the burden of life-threatening flu is more concentrated in developing countries than was originally thought. Young children and pregnant women in the developing worldare believed to be at very high risk, making them an important target for vaccination.
Getting a seasonal flu vaccine is the most effective way to prevent the flu. While effectiveness varies from season to season, the vaccine in the US can reduce the risk of getting the flu by 40-60 percent. Vaccination rates in the United States and Europe are relatively high, 38 percent in the US last year.
Although doctors wish those rates were a lot higher, they look good compared to the rest of the world. Some 95 percent of influenza vaccine doses were used in the Americas, Europe, and the West Pacific last year. The scant remaining 5 percent of doses are split between Southeast Asia, the East Mediterranean, and Africa.
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Does The Flu Shot Work
Flu viruses shift and change, which means getting the vaccine right each year requires a lot of science, and a bit of luck. The World Health Organization keeps tabs on the flu virus strains circulating worldwide. This information is used to make vaccines that protect against either the three strains or the four strains predicted to be most common during the upcoming season.
Somewhere in the middle of the flu season, we begin to get an estimate of success, but it depends on when the flu season starts, says Tam. Sometimes one strain begins and another one comes at the end. Different regions of Canada can also have different strains circulating.
In Canada, the Canadian Sentinel Practitioner Surveillance Network found the 2017-2018 flu shot was 38 percent effective in preventing the flu, while the 2018-2019 flu shot was 56 percent effective.
Maternal Vaccinations Multiplying Effect
The tiny number of vaccines available in the developing world is an argument for targeting pregnant women. With so few vaccines available, its crucial that they do the most good possible. Pregnant women are also more likely to be receiving targeted maternal health care. WHO estimates that 82 percent of pregnant women attend at least one prenatal visit, making giving her the vaccine easier, especially in a country without an infrastructure for a nationwide vaccination campaign.
While studies of maternal flu immunizations are still limited, the ones we have show that they could have a big payoff. One study in Bangladesh showed a 63 percent reduction in flu cases among infants born to vaccinated mothers, a 36 percent reduction in the number of serious respiratory illnesses for mothers, and a 28 percent reduction in those illnesses among infants.
The same immunization can also help protect against pneumonia, a common cause of childhood deaths. An analysis of trials in Nepal, Mali, and South Africa showed that infants whose mothers had been vaccinated when they were pregnant were 20 percent less likely to develop pneumonia.
Because pregnant women are more likely to be regularly seeing a health care provider, experts hope that targeting them will increase demand for vaccines, which could spur governments to increase procurement and develop national distribution plans.
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