Here’s a scary statistic: Women who get the flu during pregnancy are six times more likely to die than those who receive the flu vaccine.
Why? Flu can lead to dangerous complications like pneumonia and preterm labor, and pregnant women are more susceptible to getting seriously ill, says Anna Panighetti, M.D., an OB-GYN who practices at Meridian Women’s Health at Ballard.
What’s more, only half of pregnant women received a flu vaccine during this past flu season, according to research from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
“It’s a huge public health issue,” Panighetti says.
It’s understandable that women are careful about what they put in their bodies during pregnancy, Panighetti says. She is used to seeing women who are reluctant to get the flu shot or are wary of medication in general. Still, she says, it’s in their best interest. The only time a woman shouldn’t get the flu shot is if she is allergic to one of its ingredients.
In addition to protecting the mother, the flu vaccine can also protect the baby. Antibodies the mother develops will often pass to the baby, Panighetti says. That’s important because babies can’t be vaccinated on their own until they are 6 months old.
“It’s one of the ways we help protect babies, by vaccinating the people around them and women who are pregnant,” Panighetti says.
For pregnant women who are concerned they might have the flu, Panighetti recommends they talk with their healthcare provider as soon as possible.
“Starting treatment within 48 hours leads to the best outcomes,” she says.