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A flu shot is especially important for pregnant women

October 23, 2015
Pregnancy

Coming down with the flu is never good, and especially if you are pregnant,” said Dr. Oscar Martinez, Medical Director of Baystate Mary Lane Obstetrics & Gynecology located in Ware. “Preventing the flu is an essential element of care during preconception, as well as during pregnancy and after delivery.”

“Changes to a pregnant woman’s immune system can make her more sensitive to the flu,” said Dr. Martinez who also serves as Assistant Professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology, Tufts University School of Medicine. “The flu virus can be particularly dangerous to pregnant women, the flu can cause pneumonia, premature labor, and other complications that can be harmful to not only Mom but to baby too.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), getting a flu vaccination helps protect pregnant women and their babies for up to six months after birth.

“Getting a flu shot is the number one way to prevent this illness,” said Dr. Martinez noting that the flu season begins as early as October and lasts as late as May. “October or November is the best time to get vaccinated, but you can get a shot as late as January. A flu shot will protect both you and the baby from getting the flu for 6 months after you give birth. This is especially important, because the flu shot isn’t safe for infants less than 6 months old,” said Dr. Martinez.

In addition Dr. Martinez recommends pregnant women receive a Tdap Vaccine.

“The Tdap Vaccine, which protects against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping cough), is recommended for pregnant women during every pregnancy, regardless of vaccine history,” said Dr. Martinez. “By receiving the vaccine, Moms are able to pass immunity onto their baby so he or she is protected after birth. Tdap vaccination during pregnancy is important because babies cannot be vaccinated with DTaP, the children's vaccine against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis, until they’re two months old and do not have substantial protection until at least six months of age after they’ve received three doses.”

“Pregnant women should not get the nasal flu vaccine,” said Dr. Martinez. “The flu shot is made from an inactivated virus, so it's safe for both mother and baby during any stage of pregnancy. The nasal spray vaccine is made from a live virus, which makes it less appropriate during pregnancy or while you're trying to conceive.”

“Getting a flu shot is safe for pregnant women,” said Dr. Martinez. “It doesn’t contain the live virus and can’t give you the flu. The side effects that can occur from a flu shot, like soreness or redness where the shot is given, are very minor compared to the serious problems that flu illness could cause for pregnant women and their babies.”

“An additional way to protect your baby after birth is for all of the baby's caregivers and close contacts, including brothers and sisters, grandparents and babysitters, to also get vaccinated against the flu,” recommends Dr. Martinez.

Dr. Martinez joins Dr. Mohammed Ahmed and Lisa Beaudry, CNM, providing comprehensive care to women at two locations: Baystate Medical Practice Mary Lane OB/Gyn, at Baystate Mary Lane Hospital in Ware or at 95 Sargent Street, Rt. 9 in Belchertown.

For more information, or to schedule an appointment, call the Baystate Medical Practice Mary Lane Ob/Gyn at 413-967-2655.