Never thought of yourself as high-risk, health wise? If you're pregnant during flu season, consider yourself on the list. And, if it's been years since you've had the flu—that classic seasonal illness that brings on the "I-feel-like-I've-been-hit-by-a-truck-how-can-anything-hurt-this-much?" symptoms of fever, aching muscles and extraordinary fatigue—the time is now to take action to keep you and your baby healthy. If you haven't already, please read our Flu-Free and a Mom-to-Be Flu Season Update immediately - your health and the health of your baby could depend on it.
If your concerned about the safety of vaccines during your pregnancy - or while your breastfeeding -you should know that the CDC recommends both the seasonal flu vaccination and the novel H1N1 vaccine for pregnant and breastfeeding women and for people 6 months to 24 years. The CDC also identifies four safe and effective optional vaccines for pregnant women, if you have been or could be exposed to any of the following bacterial and viral diseases: Hepatitis B, tetanus-diphtheria, meningococcal and rabies.
So what makes the flu vaccines so important? Well, you're much more likely to be exposed to influenza in any given year than meningitis or rabies. Plus, pregnancy-related changes in your immune and respiratory systems mean that you are at higher risk for flu-related complications. In fact, if you get the flu while you're pregnant, you're more likely to be hospitalized with complications. Another good reason to get vaccinated against the flu is that a recent study found that your vaccine could protect your baby during his or her first six months—when infants can't receive a flu vaccine, yet when they are very vulnerable to flu-related complications.
This year, the novel H1N1 flu ("swine flu") poses an additional risk. At this point, scientists expect illnesses from H1N1 flu to continue for some time, so it's important for people—especially pregnant women or parents of infants and young children—to be as informed about the virus as possible.
In honor of National Influenza Vaccination Week (NIVW), a national observance that was established to highlight the importance of continuing influenza vaccination, as well as fostering greater use of flu vaccine after the holiday season into January and beyond, I want all of our Moms-to-Be to speak with their health care provider about getting vaccinated against the seasonal and H1N1 flu.
Every year, certain days of NIVW are designated to highlight the importance for different groups like health care workers and children to get vaccinated. Today's focus is children, pregnant women (who are particularly at risk), and caregivers of infants less than 6 months old.