A pregnant woman’s main concern is keeping her baby (and herself) happy and healthy during those nine months in utero, but when flu season comes around it can be difficult to know what to do for the best. Pregnant women are more at risk of developing flu symptoms due to a suppressed immune system which allows the body to concentrate more on the development of the ever-growing baby, but there have been some concerns in the past regarding the safety of the vaccine. Is it really safe to get a flu shot during pregnancy?
Not only are pregnant women more susceptible to the flu, but they’re also at greater risk of more severe symptoms and with Mum at risk, but Baby is also at risk, too. Pregnant women are especially vulnerable to complications such as pneumonia, while babies could experience stunted growth in the womb and a delay in the maturation of the lungs.
The vaccine could not only help prevent maternal flu during pregnancy but also the development of symptoms in babies during the first year of life. Studies have found that children of mothers who didn’t receive the vaccine during pregnancy were twice as likely to develop flu during their first year than children whose mothers did take precautions.
The main concern surrounding the flu vaccine is that it contains a type of preservative called thimerosal which is composed of almost 50% mercury. In recent years the negative health effects of mercury have come to light, and mercury thermometers have been pulled from the shelves in many countries throughout the world.
Thimerosal-containing vaccines have been linked to neural tube defects in children such as the life-threatening conditions spina bifida and anencephaly and also to neurodevelopmental conditions, particularly autism. But is there any evidence to back up the claims? While some studies have suggested a link, many others argue that there is not enough consistent evidence to state one way or another if there is an association between thimerosal vaccines, such as the flu vaccine, and health problems in infants.
Making A Choice
Of course, the decision of whether to have the vaccine or not is up to each individual mother, but, despite the concerns, the vaccine is considered safe and health care providers state that the benefits of having the jab far outweigh the risks. In fact, Health Ministers urge all pregnant women to book a flu shot in the lead up to the flu season which typically lasts from October to March.
Flu shots are available through Doctors’ surgeries and through some high street pharmacies, and pregnant women are usually given priority. However, if a woman has a history of egg allergy or is presenting with symptoms of illness, it’s best to check with a doctor first to ensure there are no additional risks of having the vaccine.