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Should I get the flu shot when I’m pregnant?

Woman receiving vaccine
Written by Dr. Karen Fleming

It’s that time of the year again: flu season. One of the most common questions I get from my pregnant patients is “should I get the shot?” The answer is a resounding “yes”. The flu is extremely contagious and it can be dangerous to both you and your baby if you’re pregnant.

Here are my tips for pregnant women:

  1. You’re protecting yourself and your baby: Whatever stage of pregnancy you’re at, the flu vaccine keeps you and your baby healthy. Pregnant women are at a much higher risk of hospitalization from influenza – four times more likely to land in a hospital ward than a non-pregnant person. When you’re vaccinated, you develop antibodies to protect your body from the virus. In turn, you also pass along these antibodies to your baby, so she will be protected during her most vulnerable months after birth.
  2. Don’t delay (it’s free and easy to access): There are so many places to receive the flu vaccination. From local pharmacies, to your doctor’s office, to public health flu clinics, it is free and easily available. Add it to your list of errands.
  3. “But I’m really healthy”: Even if you have a healthy diet, exercise, take your vitamins and get lots of rest, changes in your immune, heart and lung functions during pregnancy make you more likely to get seriously ill from the flu.
  4. No link between flu vaccine and autism: Some of my patients are determined to have a “natural” pregnancy and feel anxious about being vaccinated. There is no link between vaccines and autism, in fact there have been several scientific studies refuting this claim. Speak with your doctor if this is a concern.
  5. Don’t take a chance: Severe illness in a pregnant mother can be dangerous to your fetus, and increases the chance for serious problems such as premature labour and delivery.

What if…you get the flu when you’re pregnant?

If you do find yourself with the telltale symptoms – fever, chills, cough, sore throat, headaches, muscle and body aches and fatigue – call your doctor right away. There are antiviral drugs that can treat the flu and help prevent serious flu complications. These drugs are safe for pregnant women. Your fever can cause problems with your unborn baby, speak to your doctor about reducing your fever with Tylenol.

Every day, I see mothers agonize over decisions related to their pregnancy. Receiving the flu vaccination should not be one of them. It’s a no-brainer: get vaccinated to protect yourself and your baby. And don’t forget the usual steps you should take every year, like cleaning your hands regularly to combat any viruses you may come into contact with.

Stay healthy and enjoy your pregnancy!

About the author

Dr. Karen Fleming

Dr. Karen Fleming is a family physician with a special interest and expertise in pregnancy and birth.

She is the Division Lead for Family Medicine Obstetrics at Sunnybrook. She is also the Chief of Sunnybrook's Department of Family and Community Medicine.

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