What's new with the flu? According to updated guidelines from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), all pregnant women, regardless of trimester, should receive a flu shot during the 2011 to 2012 cold and flu season. The recommendations emphasize that annual flu vaccination is crucial for pregnant women because changes in the immune system during pregnancy potentially put women being at increased risk of serious complications if they do get sick.
"The flu is a highly infectious virus and can be especially serious for the very young, those with certain medical conditions, and pregnant women," says Dr. Richard N. Waldman, president of the ACOG. "Pregnant women were disproportionately affected by flu complications last year—some went into premature labor, some developed pneumonia, and unfortunately, some died."
ACOG also points out that flu vaccines performs double duty by protecting both pregnant women and their babies. Babies cannot be vaccinated against the flu until they are 6 months old, but they receive antibodies from their mother which help protect them until they can be vaccinated.
Vaccination early in the flu season is best, says ACOG, but getting a flu shot any time during cold and flu season, regardless of the stage of pregnancy, can still offer protection. ACOG advises that all women who are or become pregnant during the annual flu season (October through May) get the inactivated flu vaccine—the flu shot. Nasal mist flu vaccines, because they contain a live virus, should not be given to pregnant women.
What about H1N1? The flu vaccine being administered during the 2010 to 2011 flu season provides protection against both the seasonal and H1N1 flu viruses. Unlike last season, this year a separate H1N1 flu shot is no longer needed. Still not sure about getting a flu shot? To assess your individual needs, discuss cold and flu prevention with your doctor or midwife.