What Pregnant Women Need to Know About Flu

Pregnant woman with tissueYesterday we brought you flu advice for kids, courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Today, we’re focusing on what pregnant women need to know, thanks to the March of Dimes. This post was written by Siobhan Dolan, M.D., M.P.H. Dr. Dolan is the author of the upcoming Healthy Mom, Healthy Baby: The Ultimate Pregnancy Guide, to be published on January 29 by HarperOne.

Flu is back in the headlines again. Epidemics, Emergencies, Shortages ……… the publicity can scare folks, especially pregnant women. Flu is taking its toll in 2013 and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is reporting widespread illness reported in 47 states and 20 pediatric deaths.

The concerns for pregnant women are real: Flu increases their risk for respiratory complications, preterm labor and delivery, and ICU admission. Newborns are also at an increased risk of severe illness and even death from the flu.

But the message for pregnant women is really clear: Prevention with a flu shot and early treatment of women with influenza-like illness is the best course of action. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), March of Dimes, and CDC all endorse this message, so women should not feel uncertain.

The March of Dimes web site has practical information for women here.

The Immunization for Women website from ACOG reinforces the message:
“All women who will be pregnant during influenza (flu) season (October through May) should receive the inactivated influenza vaccine. The live attenuated influenza vaccine is contraindicated for pregnant women. The influenza vaccine is safe for pregnant women and their unborn children as well as postpartum and breast feeding women and can be given during any trimester. Immunizing pregnant and postpartum women against seasonal influenza can protect the mother and may help her baby by preventing the spread of the flu from mother to child following delivery. The seasonal flu vaccine has been given safely to millions of pregnant women over the past 45 years.”

Women are listening, with 47 percent of pregnant women surveyed by CDC in early 2012 reporting getting their flu shot, up from less than 30 percent four years ago.

So go get your flu shot. And tell your pregnant sister-in-law or co-worker to get hers, too. Let’s help keep pregnant women and newborns out of the headlines by spreading the word.

Photo: Pregnant with a cold via Shutterstock.

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