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Pregnant women and the flu

November 28, 2019

Many pregnant women are not getting the flu vaccine and it’s putting themselves and their babies at risk, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Because pregnant women are at high risk of complications from the flu, the CDC recommends pregnant women get a flu shot. Vaccination has been shown to reduce the risk of flu-associated acute respiratory infection in pregnant women.

“With the flu now spreading across the country, the CDC recommends that all pregnant women get a flu vaccine during any trimester of their pregnancy,” said Elizabeth Lambert, APRN-CNP, with Ascension Medical Group. “Flu can range from mild to severe, but it’s especially risky for pregnant women. Pregnant women suspected of having influenza should seek prompt treatment with antiviral medications.”

According to the CDC, Influenza (flu) is more likely to cause severe illness in pregnant women than in women of reproductive age who are not pregnant.

Changes in the immune system, heart, and lungs during pregnancy make pregnant women (and women up to two weeks postpartum) more prone to severe illness from flu, including illness resulting in hospitalization. Flu also may be harmful for a pregnant woman’s developing baby.

“A common flu symptom is fever, which may be associated with neural tube defects and other adverse outcomes for a developing baby,” said Lambert. “Getting vaccinated also can help protect a baby after birth from flu as mom can pass antibodies onto the developing baby during her pregnancy.”

In addition to getting a flu shot, pregnant women should take the same everyday preventive actions the CDC recommends of everyone, including covering coughs, washing hands often, and avoiding people who are sick. Breastfeeding also has many benefits, including helping to protect infants from infections like flu.

Clinicians at Ascension Medical Group urge all individuals six months or older to get a flu shot, especially those who are pregnant. To speak with an Ascension Medical Group clinician about the flu shots and pregnancy, call 715-361-4560 or visit getascensionwisconsincare.com.

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