Flu season is here in full force in the United States. If you're pregnant, it's bad enough that you might be dealing with morning sickness — but to add the flu on top is its own special kind of nightmare. That makes the flu vaccine a pregnant woman's best bet to take on the evil forces of influenza this winter, but can you get the flu shot while pregnant? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the flu vaccine is safe for pregnant women. Even so, in the wake of updated vaccine recommendations for adults from the CDC last week, it's important for pregnant women to know which type of flu vaccine to get, because not all flu vaccines are created equal.
In the CDC's updated adult vaccine recommendations, they have advised that every adult aged 19 years and older should get the flu vaccine every year. Specifically, adults should get the flu shot and not the flu vaccine nasal spray — it's not as effective as the flu shot, as recent studies have revealed. On the CDC webpage just for pregnant women about the flu vaccine, it explicitly states that pregnant women should not receive the nasal spray vaccine. This isn't because the nasal vaccine is not safe for pregnant women, rather that it's not as effective as the flu shot.
Getting the flu shot while you're pregnant is more than just about avoiding a wicked case of feeling terribly sick on top of being pregnant — it's about preventing pre-term birth, which has the potential to cause a number of health complications for both mother and baby. Now, before anyone starts screaming "autism!" — say it with me now: Vaccines do not cause autism. As the mom of a child who was born nearly six weeks premature, I can speak to the pantheon of far more terrifying and life-threatening complications that preemie babies can face just because they came out early: My son could have died from a rare infection that only happens to pre-term babies.
The CDC notes that the flu vaccine has been shown to actually protect both mother and baby from the flu for several months after birth. Mothers can pass on their antibodies that develop from getting the flu vaccine, thereby passing on their immunity to their babies while in utero, and even after birth when breastfeeding. Yay for inherited immunity!
So there you have it. If you've got a baby on the way, it's time to roll up your sleeves and arm yourself against the flu this season. If you're still not sure, talk to your health care provider, but they're going to tell you everything you've read here: It's far safer for you and your baby to get the flu vaccine while pregnant than to get the flu itself.