The Importance and Safety of Flu Shots During Pregnancy

The only two vaccines recommended as safe for all pregnant women are for the flu and whooping cough, yet only about 35% of women get them both, whereas only half get the flu shot. There can be serious consequences for your baby if you neglect to heed the warnings.

The Dangers to Your Infant from Whooping Cough

Pertussis, otherwise known as whooping cough, is a highly contagious respiratory disease. The CDC strongly recommends that pregnant women get this vaccine, which is commonly known as Tdap. Pertussis can be life threatening for infants too young to be vaccinated, and in fact, 70% of those who have died from whooping cough were infants younger than 2 months of age.

Whooping cough causes the airwaves to swell causing common symptoms including the following: 

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty sleeping or eating
  • Gasping for air 
  • Skin turning blue from lack of oxygen

 An infant without protection can be infected by an older sibling, parents, grandparents, or other caregivers. Newborns can also easily be infected by anyone who gets near them because the bacteria is easily transferable from one person to another.

pregnant woman receiving flu vaccine from doctor

The Dangers to Your Infant from the Flu

The influenza vaccine was developed in 1960, and over the years there have been many misconceptions about its safety. Both the CDC and the American College Of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend that pregnant women get the flu shot to protect themselves and their unborn child.

Having the flu and a fever during pregnancy increases your risk of fetal birth defects or premature birth. Getting the flu shot will of course decrease this risk, as immunized women will be much less likely to catch the flu while pregnant and require hospitalization for treatment. Although children cannot be vaccinated for the flu until they are at least 6 months old, your shot will provide protective antibodies to pass to your newborn through breast milk as well as the placenta.

Infants without protection from the flu vaccine can become dehydrated, get pneumonia, and suffer swelling of the brain should they get the flu. In addition, they are at a greater risk for especially severe outcomes caused by the flu, including death. 

Important Takeaways

It is recommended that pregnant women have both the flu vaccine and the Tdap for whooping cough, as both provide added protection for themselves as well as their child. The best time to receive these two shots is during the beginning of the mother’s third trimester.

Contact Brownsville Obstetrics & Gynecology Associates with additional questions about the importance and safety of flu shots during pregnancy.