Pregnant Woman

Flu season can be an unnerving time for expectant and new parents. Severe cases of the flu can harm pregnant women and babies, so it’s important that everyone tries to stay as healthy as possible.

Luckily, getting a flu shot while pregnant is a simple and safe way to protect yourself and your baby from illness. Read on to learn vital information about pregnancy and flu shots, as well as the importance of getting vaccinated as a new parent.

Why It’s Important to Get a Flu Shot While Pregnant

Experts at the U.S. National Library of Medicine say studies demonstrate that pregnant women are at a higher risk than nonpregnant women of developing flu-related complications and requiring hospitalization.

The good news is that the flu shot can help limit the risk of getting sick and getting a serious case of the flu that could harm you or your baby.

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How to Protect Your Newborn From the Flu

In addition to pregnant women, newborns are also more vulnerable to the virus, according to the CDC. And until your baby is 6 months old — the age at which a child should first get vaccinated, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics — they rely on you to protect them from the flu.

One way you can protect your baby from influenza is by getting the flu vaccine and then breastfeeding them or feeding them expressed breast milk. When you get the flu shot, your body produces antibodies that pass through your placenta and your breast milk to your baby and bolster their ability to fight the flu.

Here are other ways to protect newborns from influenza:

  • Sanitize surfaces

  • Wash your hands

  • Avoid crowds

  • Wear a mask during close-contact activities, like diapering

Communicating Your Preventive Wishes to Others

If you didn’t already, hopefully you now see the importance of flu shots to your and your baby’s health. But parents aren’t the only ones who should get vaccinated — relatives and friends who’ll be in contact with you and your baby can reduce the risk of exposing you to the flu by getting the updated vaccine.

If some of your loved ones are skeptical about the flu shot, prepare to navigate conversations with them by familiarizing yourself with common myths about the vaccine. That way, you can get to know their perspective. Then, learn the facts about flu prevention so you can accurately inform them about the benefits of the flu shot for themselves and your family. Finally, ask your doctor for tips on graciously asking others if they’ve gotten this year’s dose.

Other Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Pregnancy and Flu Shots

What’s the difference between this year’s and last year’s flu vaccines? What flu symptoms should you look out for? How can the flu vaccine be administered? Are over-the-counter flu treatments safe for pregnant or nursing mothers? These questions and more may come up as you navigate flu season, and all are good questions to ask your doctor.

For other tips to stay ahead of seasonal health trends, subscribe to the UPMC HealthBeat newsletter so you never miss a beat.

Pregnancy and the Flu. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Influenza (Flu) | Breastfeeding. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Recommendations for Prevention and Control of Influenza in Children. American Academy of Pediatrics.

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