As many of us are aware pregnancy is a time of lowered immunity and women are more susceptible to infections at this time. Flu and pregnancy may be cause for concern, mainly because of the problems that the symptoms could cause and the potentially dangerous complications that can arise out of flu.
Since flu could be a potentially problematic condition during pregnancy, it is now recommended that pregnant women have the flu shot to lower risk of catching virus for several reasons –
The symptoms of flu during pregnancy can be uncomfortable
Flu symptoms could include fever, chills, sore throat, cough, blocked or runny rose, body aches, headaches, fatigue, weakness and even digestive problems such as throwing up or diarrhea.
Most pregnant women do already experience some or other discomforts; flu in pregnancy can add to the discomforts and can last for about a week.
There are also other reasons to avoid flu during pregnancy – a high fever during early pregnancy is potentially dangerous for the baby, and there are few medications that may be safe for women to take during this time.
Also the lungs and the heart are working harder during a woman’s pregnancy – with less space than otherwise available to do the job (particularly in the later parts of the pregnancy when the baby gets bigger and there is less space for the organs). This could result in shortness of breath due to the flu and undue stress being placed on the body of the pregnant woman.
Complications that can arise out of flu and pregnancy
Not only is a woman more likely to get the flu during her pregnancy due to a suppressed immunity; this suppressed immunity is also more likely to lead to complications leading from the flu.
One of the complications of the flu, pneumonia, is potentially life threatening in particular. Women are at higher than average risk of having severe symptoms of the flu and may be more likely to land up in hospital.
Studies have shown that pregnant women are likelier to be hospitalized during the flu season for heart and lung problems and that it is therefore advisable to get a flu shot in accordance with the recommendations of agencies such as Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
How can the flu vaccine help?
Research has shown that being vaccinated for the flu can help protect the mother as well as her unborn baby against the flu infection. It is generally recommended that women who get pregnant during the flu season (the winter months, generally speaking) should get a flu shot. In fact it is now being recommended that flu during pregnancy can be avoided more effectively if the vaccine is taken earlier.
Experts and researchers published a report in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology and now are of the view that the earlier pregnant women get their flu shot the better it is. If the vaccines were taken earlier in the flu season it was seen to have a more positive impact on flu and pregnancy; in terms of the amount of hospitalizations that resulted.
It is recommended that the flu shot should ideally be administered during the month of September; or as soon as the vaccine is available.