We are extremely excited to announce a new monthly column called Ask the Midwife: Advice on health and wellness from an Expert in Women’s Health!. Teresa Brennan Turi, a Certified Nurse Midwife, practices holistic women’s healthcare right outside the Big Apple with offices in Hoboken and Jersey City, New Jersey. She is extremely knowledgable and an absolute sweetheart. We couldn’t happier that she is writing for us!
With cold and flu season upon us, we asked Theresa: Is it safe for a pregnant woman to get the flu vaccine?
The answer: This is a timely question considering that this week, December 8-14th, is National Influenza Vaccine Week. Vaccines can be a “hot button topic.” I suggest each woman speak to their Healthcare Provider regarding their individual risk. No one enjoys getting needles, however the nasal spray form is NOT for pregnant women or babies under 2 years old. In most cases, the flu vaccine is both safe and recommended. The Centers for Disease Control advise pregnant women to receive the flu vaccine to protect themselves and their unborn babies. Even the healthiest women experience natural changes in the immune system, heart and lungs during pregnancy, rendering them more susceptible to severe complications from the flu that can require hospitalization. High fever is the main concern, especially in early pregnancy, because it can cause defects in the developing baby. Having a fever and vomiting later in pregnancy can cause dehydration leading to serious complications such as preterm labor. The influenza vaccine is considered safe at any time during pregnancy unless you are experiencing fever or other cold symptoms. If you have experienced a severe neurologicial reaction following the flu vaccine in the past, or have a severe allergy to eggs, you may not be a candidate. These warnings are provided on a consent form that must be signed prior to getting the vaccine from anyone, and the vaccine is widely available.
As a followup, we also wanted to know – If I take the flu vaccine and don’t feel well, does that mean that my baby and I have the flu?
Answer: It means your body is making antibodies against the flu that will be passed to your baby helping to protect him or her against the flu virus following birth and up to 6 months. Breastfeeding is also a way to transmit these antibodies after birth. Sometimes, even those who are vaccinated will come down with a milder form of flu. In that case, your midwife or doctor can prescribe medication for influenza to lessen the severity and duration of the illness so call them immediately and do not “tough it out.”
If you are pregnant and have any of the following signs, call 911 and seek emergency medical care right away:
-Problems breathing or shortness of breath
-Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
-Sudden dizziness or confusion
-Severe or constant vomiting
-Decreased or no movement of your baby
-High fever that is not responding to Tylenol® or other acetaminophen
For more information 1-800-CDC-INFO or visit the CDC’s website.
Finally, Theresa gave us some great tips to prevent the flu and other illnesses.
Hand washing it the best way to prevent the spread of any illness. Wash your hands often! Whenever soap and water aren’t available, use a hand sanitizer. It’s the time of year we all like to feel close to one another. But the fact is avoiding close contact helps prevent the spread of germs. If you are ill, stay home from work or other activities and cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing. Keeping up your general health will promote immunity decreasing the chance of illness. That means getting enough sleep, eating nutritious foods and increasing your intake of warm fluids such as caffeine-free teas and good old chicken soup!