HCA Midwest Health - September 14, 2016
by Amy Mendus, Certified Nurse Midwife, Specialists in Women’s Care

It’s important for everyone—from age six months and older and pregnant women—to protect themselves from flu illnesses.

Summer is coming to a close, which means cooler weather, falling leaves, pumpkin lattes and the advent of the annual flu season. Sniffles, aches and fevers are nothing for anyone to look forward to—especially pregnant women. As a Certified Nurse Midwife, I counsel my patients—women of all ages—to get a flu shot to protect themselves and their family.

It stands to reason: The more people vaccinated means more will be protected from flu, including older people, very young children, pregnant women and people with certain health conditions who are more vulnerable to serious flu complications. The vaccine helps to reduce illnesses, healthcare provider visits and missed work and school due to flu symptoms—as well as potential flu-related hospitalizations.

Here in the U.S., the so-called flu season is most common during the fall and winter months. Activity typically increases in October and November and usually peaks between December and March. And although it’s not possible to predict what the 2016 - 2017 flu season will be like and its duration, there’s one certainty: the flu will circulate.

Here are the top five questions I receive every year from patients, including pregnant women.

  1. I’m pregnant—why should I get a flu shot?
  2. Bottom line—the flu is more likely to cause severe illness in pregnant women than in healthy women who aren’t pregnant.  Natural changes in a pregnant woman’s immune system, heart and lungs during pregnancy make them more vulnerable to illness and even potential hospitalizations.  Getting the flu while you’re pregnant also increases the risk of complications, including premature labor and delivery. The CDC has studies showing that a pregnant woman who gets a flu shot in any trimester can pass antibodies onto her baby that will help protect against the flu for six months after birth.
  1. Is the flu vaccine safe for pregnant women?
  2. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), the flu shot has been give safely to millions of pregnant women over many years.  In fact, there’s a substantial body of scientific studies supporting the safety of the vaccine in pregnant women and their unborn babies. The nasal flu shot is not recommended for pregnant women.
  1. Do pregnant women experience side effects from flu shots?
  2. The most common side effects pregnant women can experience are the same for any other person receiving the vaccine. Generally mild, they can include soreness, redness and/or swelling; fainting, headache, fever, muscle aches, nausea and fatigue. If side effects do occur, the onset is usually soon after the shot is administered and generally last one to two days.
  1. What about if I have an allergy to eggs?
  2. Most people with an egg allergy can be vaccinated, with some additional safety measures. with a severe, life-threatening allergy to any of the vaccine’s ingredients, including egg protein, shouldn’t receive a flu shot. If you’re pregnant, tell the person giving the shot if you have any severe allergies or have ever had a severe allergic reaction following a flu shot.
  1. How can I avoid the flu this year?
  2. A. There are no guarantees that even practicing common sense during the flu and cold season will you and your family in tip-top health—but it will lower your risk. Get a flu shot; be diligent about hand washing with soap and water (scrub hard for 20 minutes or more); avoid being around sick individuals; keep your home and office clean and sanitized; eat a healthy diet; don’t smoke; get adequate sleep.

And of course, at the first sign of flu symptoms, which can include fever or feeling feverish/chills, cough, sore throat, runny/stuffy nose, muscle/body aches, headache, fatigue, vomiting/diarrhea, visit your healthcare provider.

tags: midwifery , t4b