Frequently Asked Questions About the Flu Shot

Pregnant mother smiling at her daughter

Is There a Specific Flu Shot for Pregnant Women?

Women cannot receive the live attenuated flu vaccine given as an intranasal spray. They can receive the flu vaccine given by injection. However, your flu vaccine should be a licensed, recommended, age-appropriate, inactivated flu shot. There is no specific recommendation for one type of flu shot over another, per the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices or ACOG. Flu shots are available at most major pharmacies, and you can find a nearby location for the flu shot at www.vaccinefinder.org.

Can the Flu Shot Give Me the Flu?

No, getting vaccinated for the flu does not give you the flu. This is a common misconception. You may wonder then, why some people can still get sick after being vaccinated. The reason why, is the shot does not protect against all flu virus strains, and the flu shot takes 2 weeks for your body to develop the necessary antibodies to protect you from getting the flu. Also, the flu shot is only about 50 to 65% effective, as immunologists and scientists make a new flu vaccine for flu season every year, and the shots protect those who are immunized against the most common strains.
The side effects pregnant women can experience from the flu shot are the same as any other person can have, although they are rare. Those who do experience side effects often report mild symptoms that only last for 1-2 days. If you have an adverse reaction that you think was caused by the flu shot, contact your Ob-Gyn or healthcare provider right away for treatment.

Should I Be Vaccinated for Every Pregnancy?

Yes. The reason why is because the flu vaccine is only effective for any given flu season, it is not a vaccine like the polio immunization, which lasts a lifetime. Also, flu strains change from year to year, and the shot is reformulated by immunologists and scientists each year.

How Effective Is the Flu Shot?

The flu shot is about 50% to 65% effective in any given year. The reason why it isn’t 100% effective is because every year, scientists and immunologists formulate a new vaccine that only protects against the strains they have identified for that particular flu season. There are many different flu strains. Another reason why some people still get sick is because the flu shot takes 2 weeks to “kick in,” because it takes that long for the mother to develop the antibodies that protect her against the flu.

How Does the Flu Spread?

Flu viruses spread by those who have the flu when they expel droplets while coughing, sneezing, or even talking. When these droplets land on the mouths, noses, or eyes of those nearby, then they can contract the flu from the person who is contagious. If the flu virus can also be contracted by touching a surface that has the flu virus on it. Those who have the flu are contagious and can infect others 1 day before they develop symptoms, and up to 5 to 7 days after they get the flu. The immunocompromised might be able to infect others for even longer than 7 days.

How Serious Is the Flu?

Because the flu is unpredictable in its severity from year to year and even from one person to the next, there are many variables that can determine how ill you can get from contracting the flu. For example, it depends on which you are infected with, when the vaccine is made available, how many people get vaccinated (herd immunity), and the effectiveness of the flu shot from year to year. Generally, though, pregnant women experience a much more severe illness, because they experience physiological changes that can make it more difficult to combat the flu.

Is it Safe to Get the Flu Shot While I’m Breastfeeding?

Yes, it is recommended that you receive the flu shot even if you are breastfeeding if you did not receive the flu shot while you were pregnant. The antibodies the body develops after receiving the flu shot can be passed to the baby via the breastmilk, which also reduces the baby’s chance of contracting the flu.

Is There Any Reason Pregnant Women Shouldn’t Get the Flu Shot?

There are very few reasons. Some believe a history of an egg allergy (including hives) is one of them, but experts have disproven this. The one thing that might prevent you from getting the flu shot includes a severe allergic reaction from a previous flu shot. Ask your Ob-Gyn about any adverse reactions you’ve had from past flu shots to determine whether you should forego vaccination. Consult with your OB provider before getting flu vaccine if you have a history of Guillain-Barre syndrome.

What If I Get the Flu While Pregnant?

There is still a chance you could get the flu while pregnant. If you suspect you have the flu, contact your Ob-Gyn right away. If you have severe symptoms, including a high fever or trouble breathing, seek immediate medical attention. If you have had close contact with someone else who has been infected with the flu, you should contact your Ob-Gyn or other healthcare provider.

Let’s Be Healthy Together. Contact us at RWJBarnabas Health to request a maternity tour at our New Jersey hospital.




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