Flu Shots for Pregnant Women: Get In Line Early!

Get your Flu shot early if you are pregnant!Gynos must not be answering the questions correctly. Since the 1950s flu shots have been recommended in pregnancy but vaccination rates for pregnant women have generally been below 15%. Now that the publicity around swine flu has helped to get awareness of the serious nature of this disease it is estimated that vaccination rates have at least doubled to over 30% in the past couple of years, but we can do better!

Although a woman can get vaccinated at any point during her pregnancy, and at any point during the flu season or out of season, the maximum benefits have been thought to line the pregnant ones up first and vaccinate them as early in the flu season as possible! In the March issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology a study has been published that looked at how well protected pregnant women were relative to when they got their vaccine. Specifically what they wanted to know as whether getting vaccinated early in pregnancy, verses in the third trimester, verses getting the vaccine after delivery, or even 6 weeks after delivery. It turns out that the rates of protection based on blood tests showing that the patient developed the right kind of immunity (called seroconversion) were the lowest if you get injected in the first trimester or right after delivery. Actually if you get your shot in the third trimester or 6 weeks out, protection rates were somewhat better.
We think women are about 60% protected against the flu from each shot, because each year's vaccine cannot cover all the strains circulating around. None the less The Healthy People 2020 objective wants us to vaccinate at least 80% of pregnant patients. The vaccine has been shown to be safe, effective at preventing flu in pregnant moms, and effective in preventing illness in the infant as your protective antibodies will pass though the placental circulation into the baby.We don't think pregnancy itself causes a woman to be more susceptible to getting the flu, but her pregnancy makes her more likely to become sicker if she does get the flu, and more likely to have a life threatening illness (although this still is statistically rare). It is thus helpful to also be protected against as many strains as possible, so that the newer quadravalent shots are to be considered. So if you are pregnant, or planning to be pregnant, the flu season will be upon us fairly soon. If you get a shot, you are virtually assured of not getting seriously ill even if you do catch the flu. If you get a shot when pregnant, about 60+% of the babies are protected against getting the flu as well. Talk to your physician now about the importance of getting a flu shot, we hope that you all will see that flu shots are important for pregnant women. 

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