While you may have been dreaming of enjoying the many romantic charms of winter while awaiting the birth of your baby, there’s one seasonal certainty that probably doesn’t make it into your fantasies: the flu. Unfortunately, not only are pregnant women more susceptible to flu, but they’re also at increased risk for complications. Let’s take a closer look at how to keep the flu away this winter.
About Pregnancy and the Flu
The influenza virus can lead to serious illness in mamas-to-be, according to the CDC. It’s not just your belly that changes during pregnancy: Your immune system, heart, and lungs are all doing double-duty, which makes it harder for them to fight off the flu if it strikes.
Flu-related complications for pregnant women include higher incidences of hospitalization and even increased risk of death. Your baby is also vulnerable to health problems due to the heightened chance of premature labor and delivery.
Your First Line of Defense
There is one single thing pregnant women can do to safeguard their health when it comes to the flu. Get the flu shot.
The flu shot triggers your body to begin making protective antibodies which protect both you and your baby from the flu. In doing so, you not only pass along critical antibodies to your baby during pregnancy, but these benefits continue to last for up to six months after delivery, while also continuing to be passed along via breast milk. This is particularly vital because babies are too young to receive the flu vaccine until they are at least 6 months of age. Because unvaccinated babies are also vulnerable to complications from the flu, getting a flu shot is one of the best things you can do for your baby.
Other ways to protect yourself from the flu involve healthy eating, practicing good hygiene by washing hands frequently, and avoiding people with symptoms, including fever, runny nose, body aches, nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting.
And make sure to lace up those sneaks and take your favorite maternity activewear for a spin: exercise delivers an unbeatable boost to the immune system.
Is the Flu Shot Safe?
With so much controversy about the safety of shots and vaccines today, it’s natural for mothers-to-be to wonder if they’re doing the right thing by getting or not getting a flu shot. The CDC has declared the flu shot to be safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women alike. (Note that the CDC does not recommend the nasal vaccine for pregnant women.) In fact, millions of flu shots have been administered to pregnant women to date, and there is no known connection linking flu shots to harm to women or their babies.
And while some women do experience mild symptoms following a flu shot, they’re nothing compared to the impact of the disease itself. If you’re still having concerns about the flu shot, your healthcare provider can be a useful resource.
What If You Do Get the Flu?
Unfortunately, even the most stringent safety measures can’t 100 percent protect against the flu. If you experience symptoms, call your healthcare practitioner immediately. It is particularly important to treat fever from flu and other infections during pregnancy as they can lead to birth defects without intervention.
Also, if you experience extreme or unusual symptoms, such as shortness of breath, chest or abdomen pain, dizziness or confusion, severe vomiting, a high fever that doesn’t respond to medication, or decreased fetal movement, seek emergency help immediately.
While the flu may seem like a fact of life when winter comes around, taking the right precautions can help you stay healthy and flu-free this season. And don’t forget to sign up for the For Two Fitness newsletter for access to insider sales, special discounts, and plenty of other news and deals for fitness-minded mamas!
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