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Is a flu shot safe when you are pregnant?


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2015-07-16 18:04:44
2015-07-16 18:04:44

See also the related question below for the current recommendations from

the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

My doctor actually recommended I get the flu shot while I was pregnant. I did and everything is still going fine.

Here in UK pregnant women are not on the list of people who should receive flu shots, but I was asked this question (I am a midwife) and did some research and in US pregnant women are up there with the elderly, people with heart/lung disease and diabetics as people who should have flu shots.

I have copied this over from the CDC website:

"Is it safe for pregnant women to receive an influenza vaccine that contains thimerosal? Yes. A study of influenza vaccination examining over 2,000 pregnant women demonstrated no adverse fetal effects associated with influenza vaccine. Case reports and limited studies indicate that pregnancy can increase the risk for serious medical complications of influenza. One study found that out of every 10,000 women in their third trimester of pregnancy during an average flu season, 25 will be hospitalized for flu related complications.

The trace amounts of mercury from the thimerosal in vaccinations (a preservative) are about the same amount as you would get from a single meal of fish.

The following excerpts from a September 3, 2009 guidance document from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are about the H1N1/09 Influenza Vaccine and Pregnant Women:

Influenza vaccines have not been shown to cause harm to a pregnant woman or her baby. The seasonal flu shot (injection) is proven as safe and already recommended for pregnant women. The 2009 H1N1 influenza vaccine will be made using the same processes and facilities that are used to make seasonal influenza vaccines.

It is important for a pregnant woman to receive the 2009 H1N1 influenza vaccine as well as a seasonal influenza vaccine. A pregnant woman who gets any type of flu is at risk for serious complications and hospitalization. Pregnant women who are otherwise healthy have been severely impacted by the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus (formerly called "novel H1N1 flu" or "swine flu"). In comparison to the general population, a greater proportion of pregnant women infected with the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus have been hospitalized. In addition, severe illness and death has occurred in pregnant women. Six percent of confirmed fatal 2009 H1N1 flu cases thus far have been in pregnant women while only about 1% of the general population is pregnant. While hand washing, staying away from ill people, and other steps can help to protect pregnant women from influenza, vaccination is the single best way to protect against the flu.

There are two types of flu vaccine. Pregnant women should get the "flu shot"- an inactivated vaccine (containing fragments of killed influenza virus) that is given with a needle, usually in the arm. The flu shot is approved for use in pregnant women. The other type of flu vaccine - nasal-spray flu vaccine (sometimes called LAIV for "live attenuated influenza vaccine)-is not currently approved for use in pregnant women. This vaccine is made with live, weakened flu viruses that do not cause the flu). LAIV (FluMist®) is approved for use in healthy* people 2-49 years of age who are not pregnant. In addition to protecting her from infection, infants less than 6 months old will not be able to be vaccinated so it is recommended that everyone who lives with or provides care for infants less than 6 months of age receive both the seasonal influenza vaccine and 2009 H1N1 influenza monovalent vaccine to provide protection for the infant.

One recent study conducted in Bangladesh, assessed the effectiveness of influenza immunization for mothers and their young infants. Inactivated influenza vaccine reduced proven influenza illness by 63% in infants up to 6 months of age. This study confirmed that maternal influenza immunization is a strategy with substantial benefits for both mothers and infants. There is no evidence that thimerosal (used as a preservative in vaccine packaged in multi-dose vials) is harmful to a pregnant woman or a fetus. However, because some women are concerned about exposure to preservatives during pregnancy, manufacturers will produce preservative-free seasonal and 2009 H1N1 influenza vaccines in single dose syringes for pregnant women and small children. CDC recommends that pregnant women may receive influenza vaccine with or without thimerosal. People for whom the 2009 H1N1 influenza vaccine is recommended should receive it, even if they have had an influenza-like illness previously, unless they can be certain they had 2009 H1N1 influenza based on a laboratory test that can specifically detect 2009 H1N1 viruses. CDC recommends that persons who were tested for 2009 H1N1 influenza discuss this issue with a healthcare provider to see if the test they had was either an RT-PCR or a viral culture that showed 2009 H1N1 influenza. There is no harm in being vaccinated if you had 2009 H1N1 influenza in the past.

Pregnant women are encouraged to get vaccinated against the seasonal strains of influenza in addition to the A-H1N1/09 vaccine. That vaccine for seasonal flu is already distributed and available for use. The two kinds of vaccine (seasonal flu and "Swine Flu") must both be taken for complete protection from both kinds of flu in the upcoming flu season.

Always check with your obstetrician before taking any medications in pregnancy. Your doctor may also be planning on administering the vaccines to patients.

Note about H1N1 vaccines approved for use in the UK:

These vaccines are slightly different from the vaccines approved for use in the US for A-H1N1/09, but are still recommended by the NHS for pregnant women. The difference is mostly that they contain adjuvants in the UK. See the related question below about swine flu shot ingredients.

Related Questions

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You should not get the flu shot when you have strep throat. If you have a minor illness such as a minor cold, it is safe to get the shot.

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The shot has been tested just as all flu vaccines are and it perfectly safe.

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Yes. In fact, now the seasonal flu shots are combined with the H1N1 Virus flu shot, so you don't have to get two.

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That is unlikely to be the cause but not impossible. Obstetricians and gynecologists recommend that women who are pregnant or intending to get pregnant should have flu shots. They have been proven safe and effective over decades of use even in pregnant women. See the related links below for more information.

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Yes, it is safe to take a shower a day after you get the flu shot. The shower does not affect how well the flu shot will protect you against the flu. The warm water may also be good for you to use to increase the circulation in the injection location and help reduce any inflammation or soreness (that can be a result of the vaccination in some people).


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