The Advisory Committe on Immuinization Practices (ACIP) recommends that pregnant and postpartum women recieve the seasonal influenza vaccine this year, even if they received the 2009 H1N1 or seasonal influenza vaccine last year. Lack of awareness of the benefits of vaccination and concerns about vaccine safety are common barriers to influenza vaccination of pregnant and postpartum women. To overcome these barriers, some key points have been provided in this document.
Influenza is more likely to cause severe illness in pregnant women than in women who are not pregnant. Changes in their immune system, heart, and lungs during pregnancy make pregnant women more prone to severe illness from flu as well as hospitalizations and even death. Pregnant woman with flu also have a greater chance for serious problems for their unborn baby including premature labor and delivery. Flu shots will protect pregnant women, their unborn babies and even protect the baby after birth.
The Flu Shot is the Best Protection Against Flu
Getting a flu shot is the first and most important step in protecting against flu. The flu shot given during pregnancy has been shown to protect both the mother and her baby (up to 6 months old) from flu. Pregnant women should receive the inactivated vaccine but not receive the live attenuated vaccine (nasal spray). Postpatum women, even if they are breastfeeding, can receive either type of vaccine.
The Flu Vaccine is Safe for Pregnant Women Flu shots are a safe way to protect the mother and her unborn child from serious illness and complications of flu. The flu shot has been given to millions of pregnant women over many years. Flu shots have not been shown to cause harm to pregnant women or their babies. It is very important for pregnant women to get the flu shot. The flu vaccine can be given in any trimester.
Pregnant women respresented 5% of the 2009 H1N1 influenza deaths in the U.S., while only about 1% of the population was pregnant. Severe illness in postpartum women was also documented. 2009 H1N1 is expected to continue to circulate this flu season and is included in the seasonal trivalent influenza vaccine this year.
It is best to get your flu vaccine as soon as it is available in your community. That’s because it can take two to three weeks for your body to develop antibodies to the flu virus after vaccination. If you get vaccinated in the fall, you will be protected by the time the flu season peaks, which is usually December through March. You will also be better prepared for the start of the flu season, which can begin as early as September or October.
One common myth about the flu vaccine is that it can actually cause the flu. Although the live vaccine does contain viruses, those in the flu shot have only inactivated pieces of the virus, and therefore, cannot cause infection.
Other Preventive Actions
In addition to getting the flu shot, pregnant women should take additional everyday preventive actions. Keep your distance from those who are ill; avoid crowds during peak flu season, if possible. That’s because flu viruses travel through the air in droplets when someone with the infection coughs, sneezes or talks. You can inhale the droplets directly or pick up the germs from common objects such as tabletops or doorknobs. Frequently wash your hands and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. It is best to wash with soap and warm water for 15-20 seconds. YOu can also use an alcohol-based gel containing ast least 60 percent alcohol. Eat right and get enough sleep. A poor diet and lack of sleep can lower your immune system and make you more prone to infections.
Be sure to get your Vitamin D!! Get some sun exposure. A few times a week, 10 to 15 minutes of sun exposure on your face, arms, hands or back can help your skin create vitamin D naturally. The best dietary sources of vitamin D include liver, egg yolks, oily types of fish (salmon, tuna and sardines) and fortified milk. If you want to take a supplement, the US National Institutes of Health recommends the D3 form of Vitamin D which is much more effective than other types. D3 is a safe flu remedy and is available in 1,000 iu increments, over-the-counter, and at pharmacies and online retailers. Take 5,000 iu of D3 per day, for adults, when healthy to boost the immune system and prevent flu. Increase the D3 dose at the first sign of illness to 10,000 iu for adults. Drink water while taking D3. While unconfirmed, there have been rare reports of kidney stones as a result of vitamin D supplementation. This can be avoided with adequate fluid intake to maintain proper hydration.
Early Treatment is Important for Pregnant Women. If you get sick with flu-like symptoms call your healthcare provider right away. If needed, your provider will prescribe an antiviral medicine that treats the flu.
Having a fever caused by flu infection or other infections early in pregnancy can lead to birth defects in an unborn child. Pregnant women who get a fever should treat their fever with Tylenol® (or store brand equivalent) and contact their provider as soon as possible.
When to Seek Emergency Medical Care
If you have any of these signs, call 911 right away:
• Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
• Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
• Sudden dizziness
• Severe or persistent vomiting
• High fever that is not responding to Tylenol® (or store brand equivalent)
• Decreased or no movement of your baby
Talk to your healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns about the influenza vaccine.
Info provided from http://www.CDC.gov/flu
Mayo Clinic Women’s Health Source, Oct. 2010,. Volume 14, number 10