For every woman pregnancy is a very important period of life when doubts and worries arise literally from nothing. Seasonal vaccination against the flu virus is also in the list of worries. After all, on the one hand, during this period of life the immune system weakens and is most susceptible to attacks from outside. But, on the other hand, any medication that got into the female body during these 9 months somehow affects the fetus. Does flu shot while pregnant carry a risk? Is it necessary? What are the pros and cons of flu shot while pregnant? The answers to these questions are better to be learned before the conception of the child.
The Danger of Flu during Pregnancy
Influenza is an infectious disease. Depending on the strain and the immune response of the body, it can flow quite easily. At the same time, it can cause serious complications and consequences. Pregnancy is a physiological condition in which the body’s defenses are naturally reduced. Suppression of the mother’s immune system occurs to reduce the probability of rejection of the fetus. At the same time, it leads to a reduced ability to resist various infectious agents. The influenza virus is not an exception.
In pregnant women, complications of influenza are much more frequent than in non-pregnant women of the same age: viral, bacterial pneumonia and pneumonia of mixed etiology, sinusitis, bronchitis, otitis, pyelonephritis, etc.
In severe course of the disease, which is also observed in pregnant women much more often, complications of the cardiovascular system (myocarditis, heart failure) can develop. Also, against the background of the flu, the diseases of the endocrine system (diabetes mellitus), the urinary system (nephritis, cystitis) are often aggravated or debated. The episodes of bronchial asthma can also take place.
Bacterial diseases that are not directly related to the influenza virus, such as candidiasis, can also worsen or develop after a viral infection. In addition to the more severe course of the disease and complications, the flu in pregnant women can lead to the threat of premature birth and spontaneous termination of pregnancy. In the early term, the influenza virus and some medications can negatively affect fetal organs and systems. At a later stage the virus that has penetrated the placental barrier can cause flu in the child.
Can Pregnant Women Be Vaccinated Against Flu?
The World Health Organization is implementing a program for vaccinating pregnant women with flu shot. In the absence of contraindications, experts recommend that all women receive flu shot while pregnant. At the same time, it is not included in the mandatory vaccination list. So, it’s only up to the woman to decide whether she needs flu shot while pregnant.
What Are the Reasons for Flu Shot while Pregnant?
- The weakened immunity of a pregnant woman exposes her to a higher risk of getting infected with the influenza virus during seasonal outbreaks and at other time.
- When infected, the course of the disease can be much more severe than the average statistical characteristic for a given strain. With the appearance of new mutated influenza strains, pregnant women are one of the groups with the highest mortality.
- The risk of developing complications of influenza in pregnant women is much higher.
- Influenza can affect not only the mother’s body. It can also cause spontaneous abortion or pathological development of the fetus.
- Vaccination allows the formation of antibodies against influenza. They are transmitted to the baby and serve as a protection against infection during the first 6 months of life.
Contraindications to Flu Shot while Pregnant
The presence of an allergic reaction to chicken protein (the base substance for creating a vaccine) is an absolute contraindication. Individual intolerance of vaccine components is also a reason to avoid the flu shot while pregnant.
Relative contraindications, which should be evaluated for each woman separately, include allergies to different groups of antibiotics and an allergic reaction to previous vaccination. It is highly not recommended to do the vaccination in the early stages of pregnancy. Especially, in the first trimester before the formation of the placenta. Annual preventive vaccination before conception helps to avoid the danger of the disease during the season of increased viral load.
Temporary contraindications, in which it is necessary to postpone the vaccination to a period of full health, include respiratory diseases, exacerbation of somatic diseases, allergies, gestosis of the second and third trimester.
Pros and Cons
To date, doctors do not have an unambiguous answer to the question of whether flu shot while pregnant is necessary, and how dangerous this vaccination for the fetus is. To make the only true and correct decision, a woman should consult a specialist and consider all the pros and cons before the procedure.
Pros of Flu Shot while Pregnant
It has undeniable advantages, which will give a sense of confidence to the future mother:
- If there is an infection with the flu during pregnancy, it can result in such consequences as interruption of pregnancy, congenital anomalies, retardation in the physical and mental development of the baby. Vaccination will protect the baby against such complications, since the risk of infection is minimal with the flu shot while pregnant;
- If a pregnant woman has such diseases as asthma, diabetes, heart problems, liver, kidneys, nervous system failures, the consequences of the flu can be even worse, while the chance of getting infected is very high;
- Modern vaccines undergo various studies. Most doctors believe that many of them are absolutely safe for the fetus and the expectant mother;
- In response to flu shot while pregnant in the body of a woman, antibodies are produced. They penetrate through the placenta to the child. As a result, passive intrauterine formation of specific immunity to influenza occurs. It persists for 6 months after birth.
These are the arguments of those doctors who claim that flu shot while pregnant does not pose any danger to the fetus or to the woman herself. However, there are also such physicians who warn future mothers from this vaccination.
- Flu shot while pregnant is a medical product that will unequivocally get into the feeding environment of an unborn baby. The reaction of the baby is unknown. Thus, there is always a certain risk;
- Flu shot while pregnant does not give a 100% guarantee that the infection will not occur;
- No one is immune from complications that may occur after vaccination. They can affect both the pregnant woman and her unborn baby.
- A future mother needs to listen to all the advice of both sides. She consult the doctor who leads her pregnancy and only after that make a decision about making flu shot while pregnant or refusing it. If the flu epidemic is unavoidable and the possibility of infection is very high, it is better to get vaccinated. However, this is possible only in the absence of contraindications.
When to Make a Flu Shot while Pregnant?
Pregnant women should be vaccinated against influenza at the beginning of the second trimester. Especially if pregnancy occurs during the seasonal epidemic period. Vaccination is preferable 1 month before the beginning of an increase in the infectious activity of the virus, most often in September or early October.
The process of forming an immune response takes from 2 to 4 weeks. So, it is better to make a flu shot while pregnant one month before the start of the average statistical activity of the virus.
When planning pregnancy, vaccination is performed 1 month before the attempted conception. Keep in mind that the duration of the vaccination is about 12 months. Therefore, for a long-term protection, regular annual revaccination is necessary.
Preparation for Flu Shot while Pregnant
In extremely rare cases, allergic reactions of a pronounced nature (up to Quincke’s edema) are possible. To reduce the likelihood of allergy of any severity, it is necessary to follow the rules of preparation for vaccination:
- vaccination is performed against a background of complete health; not earlier than 2 weeks after a viral or bacterial disease;
- malaise on the day of vaccination is an occasion for examination by a doctor and delay of the vaccination date;
- 2-3 days before vaccination, on the day of vaccination and a week later, it is necessary to avoid unusual food, beverages, potential allergens in food, cosmetics, etc.
Despite the fact that the action of the vaccine is not an absolute protection from the infection, in the case of the disease, the clinical picture in patients, including pregnant women, differs by less pronounced symptoms, mild forms of diseases, and rare complications. Timely vaccination against influenza helps protect not only the mother, but also the baby. That’s why it is recommended to almost all pregnant women.