Flu season is almost upon us! As you may have heard, getting the flu shot is recommended specifically from mid-September through the end of flu season this year to help ensure protection. And with COVID-19 being a concern, medical professionals are highly encouraging everyone to make sure to get the flu shot this year to ensure they don’t end up in a scenario where they have both the flu and COVID-19. But what about pregnant women? Is it safe for a pregnant woman to get the flu vaccine?
The simple answer is- yes! In fact, getting the flu vaccine is highly encouraged by medical professionals. Let’s take a look at why that is.
The Flu, COVID-19, and Pregnancy
COVID-19 and the flu are both very contagious respiratory illnesses with very similar symptoms. The best way to tell the difference usually requires testing for both. These viruses share many characteristics, but they do hold a few key differences, especially for pregnant women.
Generally, from what’s been observed and is known about COVID-19, healthy women of reproductive age don’t typically get severely ill and are actually, more commonly, asymptomatic. Pregnant women have the same likelihood of other women who aren’t pregnant of getting COVID-19, but they are at a higher risk of complications due to COVID-19. Pregnant women who’ve contracted this Coronavirus have been known to have ICU admissions and the need for mechanical ventilation. They don’t, however, appear to have a higher risk of death than women who aren’t pregnant.
The flu spells out a different story for pregnant women than non-pregnant women. Because pregnancy affects a woman’s immune system, lungs, and heart, she is more at risk of a severe case of the flu. This can lead to hospitalization and may be harmful to a developing baby. A mother’s fever is especially worrisome, as fevers have been linked to birth defects, including those of the spinal cord and brain.
While the risk of transmission of COVID-19 from a mother to her baby is low, the risks that the flu has shown are not to be ignored. This is why it’s important for a pregnant woman to get vaccinated for the flu. The flu vaccine is safe for a pregnant woman at any point in her pregnancy and can help protect the baby from getting the flu after birth. The antibodies you receive from the vaccine will pass on to your developing baby.
Preventing Respiratory Stress
The flu is known for its ability to cause harm to your respiratory system and put it under a tremendous amount of stress. If you were to add COVID-19 to the equation, you’re looking at a higher likelihood of hospitalization and even death. Getting the flu shot not only reduces your risk of illness, but it also prevents medical professionals from being inundated with flu patients to clear the way for these resources to go toward helping patients fighting COVID-19.
While the flu vaccine can’t help you to avoid a COVID-19 infection, it can prevent you from having a compromised immune system should you come into contact with COVID-19, decreasing your likelihood of contracting it. It will help prevent co-infections, which have a much higher likelihood of serious health complications.
The 2020 Flu Shot and the COVID-19 Vaccine
The flu shot being administered this season is designed to protect you from flu strains that medical professionals expect to circulate this season. In particular, it will guard against two different influenza A strains and two different influenza B strains. Ideally, you would be vaccinated by the end of October, but if you don’t make that deadline then you still have the option to be vaccinated later in the season. This vaccine is estimated to be able to protect you for roughly six months, meaning you don’t want to get it too early or too late, as peak flu season is usually between December and February (or be active as late as May in some seasons).
Efficacy for the flu vaccine varies every year and can depend on many different factors, including a person’s health history, their age, and the strains circulating within communities. Efficacy for the flu shot is typically around 60%. This may seem low, but the reality is that even if you get the flu, if you’ve had the flu shot then you have a good chance of having a much milder form of it than if you hadn’t gotten the shot.
The COVID-19 vaccine is currently being distributed throughout Idaho and the rest of the United States, which means it may soon be available for you (depending on where you are in the lineup) if you haven’t already received it. Currently, pregnant women and women who are breastfeeding are advised to talk with their provider about whether or not they should receive the vaccine.
Can the Flu Shot Make a Pregnant Woman or a Baby Sick?
The flu shot contains inactivated (dead) virus strains that have no risk of making you or your baby sick. You may feel a little groggy for the few days following the vaccination as your body builds antibodies, but it won’t give you the flu. Getting the flu shot can help prevent you from getting the flu or to have a much more mild version of it because your body will have the antibodies built up to fight it. The nasal-spray flu vaccination is not recommended for pregnant women, as it does contain live attenuated virus.
Despite scares and the spread of misinformation that all vaccines may cause other health problems, studies show that this is simply not the case with the flu shot. There may be a minute chance that side effects could happen, but there is no statistical evidence that would lead medical professionals to believe that health issues are a result of the flu shot (whether you are pregnant or not). This includes your baby! It is completely safe and highly recommended that pregnant women get the flu shot to prevent possible complications caused by the flu.
Are you interested in knowing more about vaccines and pregnancy? Schedule an appointment with us and we will ensure that all of your questions are answered so that you can make well-educated decisions for your health and the health of your baby.