Time to roll up your sleeve for your flu shot! The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that getting the flu shot during pregnancy is a must for all moms-to-be.
That’s because if you come down with influenza (aka the flu) when you’re expecting, you’re at greater risk of having serious complications like pneumonia that could land you in the hospital.
But getting the flu shot when you're pregnant isn’t only a smart move for you. Making sure you're vaccinated against the flu helps protect your baby until she is old enough for her own flu shot at 6 months.
Read on for some of the most common questions and answers about the flu shot and pregnancy.
Is the flu shot during pregnancy safe?
Yes, the flu shot during pregnancy is not only safe, it’s a must. The seasonal flu shot has been given safely to millions of pregnant women over many years and has not been shown to cause harm to expecting moms or their babies.
Getting the flu shot while you're breastfeeding after baby is born is also safe and strongly recommended.
Should I get the flu shot while I'm pregnant?
Yes, you should definitely get the flu shot while you're pregnant. That's because the flu can be dangerous during pregnancy, since pregnant women are at a higher risk of (and more likely to be hospitalized with) serious flu complications like pneumonia.
Getting the flu shot during pregnancy offers the greatest protection against the influenza viruses that are expected to cause the most problems in a particular year and does significantly increase the chance that you will escape the season flu-free.
Plus, on the off-chance that you get the vaccine and still get sick with the flu, having the flu shot means your symptoms will likely be milder and you'll be less likely to be hospitalized.
What's more, getting the flu shot during pregnancy isn’t just for your own protection: Your baby-to-be benefits too, even after you've given birth. Plenty of research shows that babies whose moms got the flu vaccine during pregnancy are less likely to catch the virus after they're born, and they’re protected against the virus until they’re old enough to get their own shot, at 6 months.
In addition, babies whose moms got the flu shot while pregnant are also less likely to be born prematurely, are bigger and healthier, and are even less likely to be hospitalized from the flu or its complications during the first year than babies whose moms weren't vaccinated.
Where can I get a flu shot when I'm pregnant?
Many OB/GYN practices offer the flu shot to pregnant patients. You can also stop by a flu shot clinic at your local pharmacy or supermarket.
And since the CDC puts pregnant women at the top of the priority list for getting the flu shot (along with the elderly and children), you’ll likely head to the front of the line, even if the vaccine is in short supply.
Keep in mind that you’ll have to stick with the needle when it comes to your seasonal flu vaccine, since the nasal spray vaccine (which is made from live flu virus) is not approved for pregnant women.
When should I get a flu shot during pregnancy?
Flu season can last from as early as October until as late as May. The CDC recommends getting a flu shot as early in each flu season as possible (preferably by early to late October) so you’re protected from the start.
But it’s never too late to get immunized. So if you haven’t yet been vaccinated against the flu, go now! And remember: The vaccine is updated yearly, and immunity wanes with time — so even if you got the flu shot last year, you need to get one again this season.
Does the flu shot have mercury in it?
Only some multi-dose flu vaccines have a tiny amount of thimerosal, an ethyl mercury-based preservative in multi-dose vials. But there is no evidence that exposure to thimerosal in this (or any) vaccine causes harm, although it may cause minor redness and swelling at the injection site.
Both the CDC and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) say that thimerosal is safe for pregnant women and doesn't cause any harm to them or their growing babies. But if you’re still uneasy about it, you can ask for a thimerosal-free flu shot.