Chances are you'd do anything to protect the health of your little one, whether it's giving up alcohol for nine months, regretfully putting your sushi addiction to rest or forcing yourself to exercise every day while pregnant. But if that's the case, and so many women are just as protective of their unborn children, why do less than half of pregnant women get flu shots each season?
While it's true that some medications and vaccinations are better to avoid during a pregnancy for the sake of your child, there are a host of treatments that do more good than harm, and flu shots fall into this category. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have deemed influenza shots safe for pregnant women, even during the crucial first trimester when major developments in your child's growth are taking place.
Flu shot importance
So why are flu shots particularly important for pregnant women? It's because your immune system is compromised during a pregnancy, leaving you more susceptible to illnesses and complications. Your body is working hard to provide everything your little one needs, and in order to do this, it has to let its guard down a bit.
Also, since your baby is putting pressure on certain body parts, like your lungs, this can make it harder for your body to fight off infection because of decreased efficiency and capacity – all the more reason to make prevention your biggest priority.
If you do get the flu during your pregnancy, the dehydration and fever that may come with it can have devastating effects on your child. Having a body temperature that's too high can create long-term issues for the fetus, and could increase your chances of having a premature delivery. And if your respiratory system experiences issues, your baby might not get enough oxygen.
In addition, getting the flu shot this season can pass the immunity on to your little one, making him or her safe from the virus for about six months, which is how long it takes until your baby is old enough to be immunized.
Other prevention methods
In addition to getting immunized as soon as possible, you should take other steps to avoid getting sick this season. First and foremost, keep up your healthy habits. This means eating a diet rich in the vitamins and minerals you and your child need, and loading up on vitamin C and E in particular, which help to support the immune system. Regular exercise and plenty of sleep each night are also important.
Of course, you should also be sure to wash your hands frequently and steer clear of people who you know are sick or those who you suspect to be ill. And finally, if you do start to feel symptoms of illness, talk to your healthcare provider immediately. Nipping the problem in the bud can reduce the duration and severity of the symptoms.