While catching the flu during pregnancy rarely causes birth defects, the flu can be more severe when you are pregnant. Studies show that viral illnesses, like the flu and colds, usually last three times longer in pregnant women.
Pregnancy can also increase your risk for flu complications such as pneumonia. The best way to have a healthy pregnancy is to try to prevent the flu altogether.
What's the Best Way to Prevent the Flu During Pregnancy?
To prevent the flu, get vaccinated. The flu vaccine is the number one way to prevent the flu, and if you're pregnant, you should be vaccinated no matter how far along you are in your pregnancy. Even your third trimester is not too late. Fortunately, the fact you're pregnant does not make you more likely to get the flu than women your age who are not pregnant.
Flu season can begin as early as October and last as late as May. October or November is the best time to get vaccinated, but getting vaccinated in December is still wise.
In addition to protecting you from the flu, a flu shot during pregnancy will protect your infant from getting the flu for 6 months after birth. This is especially important because the flu shot is not safe for infants less than 6 months of age.
The current flu shot used vaccinates against several influenza viruses, including the H1N1 virus that caused a pandemic in 2009. Each year, the World Health Organization reviews the data and recommends the flu viruses that need to be included in that year’s vaccine.
Is the Flu Shot Dangerous During Pregnancy?
The flu shot does not contain the live virus and cannot give you the flu. Some women do have fatigue and muscle aches due to their immune system responding to the vaccine. In addition, the flu shot is also safe while breastfeeding. It cannot cause you or your nursing baby to get sick. The shot takes about two weeks to work. The nasal flu vaccine should not be used in pregnant women.
How Do You Find a Place to Get a Flu Shot?
The American Lung Association offers an online flu vaccine clinic locator. Visit www.flucliniclocator.org, enter a zip code and a date (or dates), and receive information about clinics scheduled in your area.
There is also a nasal flu vaccine called FluMist that contains live but weakened viruses. The nasal flu vaccine is not recommended during pregnancy because it has not been tested in pregnant women. The FluMist nasal vaccine can be used in healthy people aged 2 to 49 years old.
How Should I Treat Cold or Flu Symptoms During Pregnancy?
Many flu and cold medications have not been well studied in pregnancy. If you are pregnant and have the flu, call your doctor before taking any over-the-counter or prescription drug.