Influenza, also known as the flu, can have serious health consequences if the proper preventable measures are not taken. Misconceptions about the flu vaccine have long played a part in the public’s perception and decision not to receive their annual flu vaccine. For soon-to-be moms, this is a major concern.
Pregnant women, especially those in their second and third trimesters and women up to six weeks after delivery, are at high risk of developing influenza related complications, such as pneumonia, as a result of not getting their flu shot.
To help set the record straight; we’re busting five common myths surrounding pregnant women and the flu vaccine.
The evidenced-based facts presented below should not only prove helpful when making decisions today but will ensure the health and safety of you and your family in the future.
- Myth 1: Pregnant women should not get the flu shot
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommends that the flu vaccine is given to all pregnant women. Along with several other groups, pregnant women are considered to be at high risk of influenza related complications and hospitalization. Not receiving your influenza vaccine could lead to serious consequences for you and your baby.
Women who contract influenza during their pregnancy are actually at a higher risk for hospitalization and premature delivery compared to those who are vaccinated. The benefits of being vaccinated while pregnant are:
— Babies are less likely to be premature
— Less likely to be small for gestational age
— Less likely to suffer from low birth weight
— Increased protection against influenza and influenza related hospitalization in the first six months of life during which the vaccine is not licensed
- Myth 2: The flu shot can cause birth defects, abnormalities or miscarriages
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there have been several thousand studies conducted directly related to the safety of using the flu vaccine during pregnancy. The results indicate that there is no evidence of harm to pregnant women, to the unborn child (or fetus) or to newborns of vaccinated women.
- Myth 3: The flu shot could affect my ability to breast feed
No, receiving your influenza vaccine will not harm your ability to produce breast milk during pregnancy or feed your new born.
The CDC states:
“The seasonal flu vaccines should be given to breastfeeding mothers. Breastfeeding is fully compatible with flu vaccination, and preventing the flu in mothers can reduce the chance that the infant will get the flu. This is especially important for infants younger than 6 months old, since they are too young to be vaccinated.”
- Myth 4: Pregnant women experience severe side effects as a result of getting the flu shot
Pregnant women usually do not experience any special or serve side effects as a result of receiving the flu shot. The most common side effects that pregnant women experience are the same side effects that other people experience. Like most people, pregnant women could experience these common side effects at the injection site:
Others may experience headaches, muscle aches, fever, nausea or tiredness. If this were to happen, side effects typically occur quickly after the shot is given.
Sometimes, flu shots can cause allergic relations. If you have any severe allergies, be sure to discuss that with your family physician or health care provider as a safety measure.
- Myth 5: The flu vaccine will give me the flu or make me sick
Receiving the influenza vaccine does not cause you to become ill with the flu. According to CDC, this is because the flu vaccine is made two ways:
1) The vaccine viruses have been inactivated and as a result are no longer infectious.
2) The vaccine is made with no flu viruses at all (which is the case for recombinant influenza vaccines).
You can receive your influenza vaccine at your family physician office. Again this year, the flu vaccine is publicly-funded and free to all Nova Scotians.
- Looking for more info?
For more information on flu prevention and how to prevent the spread of germs, check out: “It’s ‘No One Wants To Sit Next To The Sneezer’ Season”
For more information on vaccine safety, check out this Infographic!
To learn more about the influenza vaccine and where you can get one, speak to your family physician.