The flu, formally known as influenza, is more than just a nuisance illness. It comes on suddenly and can symptoms such as coughing, fatigue, fever, headache, muscle aches, and a sore throat. While these symptoms typically disappear after several days to a week or longer, some people develop serious complications from the flu. Pneumonia, which can become life-threatening, is the most common type of flu complication.
Pregnant Women Among Groups with the Highest Risk for Flu Complications
Along with people under age five, over age 65, or with a chronic health condition such as heart disease or asthma, pregnant women have a higher risk of getting the flu in the first place and of developing complications from it. The reason for this is that pregnancy causes changes with a woman’s immune system. Even though these changes are normal and temporary, they can increase the likelihood of catching an illness as contagious as the flu. Unfortunately, the risks associated with the flu during pregnancy are not minor. They include:
- Preterm labor
- Premature birth
- Need for hospitalization to stabilize from the flu
- Maternal death
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) Supports Flu Shots for Pregnant Women
Although the ACOG recommends that all women receive a flu shot, this is especially important during pregnancy. Not only does the flu shot protect pregnant women from the above complications, it provides immunity for the newborn for the first six months of life when he or she is too young to receive a vaccination. Pregnant women can receive a flu shot at any point in their pregnancy with no known complications to either mother or fetus. Side effects such as soreness at the injection site and a low-grade fever are normal with vaccines and should disappear within one to two days.