Should you get the flu vaccine during pregnancy? An obstetrician explains
During pregnancy, many things are restricted. Foods you can eat, medicines you can use and even the temperature of the water you can bathe in. So it’s understandable that expectant parents might be concerned about whether it’s safe to get a flu vaccine. Dr Khairul Mohamed-Noor sets the record straight.
The flu is serious
The flu is a serious illness, even when you’re not pregnant. In fact, it took the lives of 378 people in Australia last year. In pregnancy, it is even more risky. Pregnant women are at a higher risk of complications and hospitalisation due to changes to the immune system, as well as heart and lung function. Flu in the mother also has the capacity to to harm the unborn baby, so taking every precaution is always advisable for pregnant women.
Benefits to you and baby
Immunisation protects the unborn baby by protecting the mother. If the mother does not contract flu, there can be no effects from the disease on the fetus. Immunisation during pregnancy is also beneficial to the baby after birth as antibodies to the flu will be transferred through the placenta and offer protection up to six months postpartum. This is particularly important if your baby is due to be born during ‘flu season’, as flu vaccines are generally not administered to the baby directly until six months old.
Possible side effects
Every medicine has side effects. Occasionally, the flu vaccine can have mild side effects such as soreness and swelling of the injection site, headaches, mild fever and muscle aches. These symptoms generally resolve within one to two days. The only absolute contraindication is for women who are severely allergic to the flu vaccine or any of its components.
It’s safe and necessary
Put simply, the flu vaccine is safe. It has been administered to millions of pregnant women with good safety records and is recommended by all relevant health authorities throughout Australia, including the Victorian and Australian Federal Government.
The vaccine is free for pregnant women as part of the National Immunisation Program and is available from your GP as well as some pharmacies. If another parent or caregiver is living with you and your baby, it is advisable to get them immunised for flu as well.
As with all medicines, seek advice from your healthcare provider if you have any concerns.
Dr Khai Mohamed Noor (womensogs.com.au) is an obstetrician at Frances Perry House. Khai really enjoys being an obstetrician at Frances Perry House despite some sleepless nights.