During pregnancy, your baby’s health is intertwined with yours. If you get influenza, more commonly called flu, the effects of nasal congestion, achiness and a sore throat on your daily routine might not be all you have to worry about—the illness could put your baby’s health at risk. Fever during the early weeks of pregnancy can cause birth defects, and acute sickness at any time during pregnancy increases risk for premature labor and delivery.
Flu can also cause changes in how the heart and lungs work and the way your immune system fights bacteria and viruses that enter the body. With an immune system operating at less than full strength, pregnant women with the flu are more prone to hospitalization and mortality than non-pregnant women with the virus.
Flu is a formidable foe for pregnant women, but a flu vaccine provides valuable armor for expectant moms and their babies.
Prevention Now and Later
The injection to prevent flu is safe to receive during any point in your pregnancy. The sooner you get vaccinated, the better, because there’s a lag time before protection begins: Your body doesn’t begin producing antibodies that protect both you and your baby from flu until two weeks after vaccination.
Getting a flu shot during pregnancy can also help fill a gap in your baby’s preventive care after delivery. Children cannot have the flu vaccine until 6 months of age, but the antibodies an expectant mother passes to her baby can help guard the child against the flu for up to six months after birth. Breastfed babies get bonus doses of their mothers’ antibodies in breast milk.
Don’t Drop Your Guard
The flu shot does not guarantee protection from infection, but it does reduce your risk of catching the flu and can lessen the effects of the virus if you get it. Do not ignore symptoms that could indicate the flu, especially fever; instead, seek a consultation with your physician as soon as possible, even if you have received a flu vaccine.