Why I Changed My Mind About Flu Shots During Pregnancy
At first, I was hesitant to get a flu shot this year while pregnant with my fourth, but after reading a new study on how flu shots can affect my baby, I'm glad I changed my mind.
Out of my four pregnancies, I’ve only received a flu shot once, and it was just a couple of months ago. To say I was reluctant is an understatement—I was totally against it. But I’m glad I went through with it because this year I’ve skipped the flu entirely. This week, I found a new reason to be grateful for that temporary arm ache: It can help prevent my baby from being born too early.
“Pregnant women who are vaccinated against the flu are significantly less likely to deliver premature or low-birth-weight babies compared to unvaccinated expectant mothers, new Canadian research finds.” This comes from an article in the Vancouver Sun explaining that pregnancy doesn’t just affect women’s dress sizes, sleeping habits and general appetites for Oreos (ahem). It also makes us more vulnerable to catching the flu, which in turn puts stress on the fetus, causing premature births or low birth rates—both potentially dangerous situations for newborns.
Even though it makes sense, I had never thought of the flu shot that way. Prior to the one I received a few months ago, all I remembered about my last flu shot was feeling fine for about five days, then throwing up for 48 hours straight. And also this: My husband and I were in the midst of moving internationally with our three small children at the time, one of whom was weaned on the spot when my milk dried up in a London hotel room. If you’ve ever dreaded flying with a baby, try one of those plus a toddler and a preschooler while you clutch your seat’s armrest with sweaty palms and a woozy headache for nine hours. Misery at 30,000 feet. This is why I swore off flu shots.
Until I got pregnant this year.
It sounds like I’m one of only a few who relented though. According to the article, only 16 percent of pregnant women surveyed in the two-year Nova Scotia study got flu shots. Experts think most moms-to-be just don’t realize the risks, and I’d agree. The only reason I got one was that the OB-GYNs at my fancy new American hospital sort of insisted on it. (My Italian doctor suggested it, but he was very lax about things like this, having more of an “as you wish” policy. La dolce vita, and all that.)
Pregnancy does seem to stress my immune system though. With each of my pregnancies so far, I remember getting every single cold and nasty bug that our kids brought home, and now that there are three of them in the mix—at preschool, play dates, toddler music classes and don’t forget those race car carts at the grocery store—I thought it was time to try again.
Really, at my “advanced age“ for pregnancy, if there’s anything that could help me have a more comfortable pregnancy this time around, I’ll do it. And now I know it’s good for this little baby too. Bonus: I haven’t thrown up once so far, not on land and certainly not in the air. I’d say we’re doing better already.
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