Pregnancy & the Flu
I am currently 20 weeks pregnant and enjoy reading your pregnancy calendar articles every week to track my baby’s progress. I love your no BS sense of humor and bluntness in the articles. This week I have been faced with the great debate of the Flu Shot. I normally do get the flu shot except for maybe the few years I have forgotten. I have been asking my family and friends on whether it is safe and smart to get the flu shot while pregnant or if I should just skip it. I am finding that now a days a lot of people “don’t believe in” the flu shot. One of those people being my husband. Coming from a family that generally got out flu shots every year due to the “better be safe than sorry rule”, it’s a little unsettling to think this might always be a debate in my own household. I didn’t get the flu shot last year and got a terrible bout of the flu as a consequence. I have also read that chances of hospitalization, extreme dehydration and pregnancy complications go up a lot if you catch the flu while pregnant. Is it all just a bunch of scare tactics or is the flu shot a good health investment in general?
Mom Against the Flu
Okay, so USUALLY I stay far, far away from any and all questions that veer anywhere close to area of “medical advice.” Because that is not advice that I am qualified to give, at all, entertainment purposes only blah blah disclaimer disclaimer disclaimer-cakes.
The American Pregnancy Association wants you to get a flu shot. The Mayo Clinic wants you to get a flu shot. The CDC (which I know is probably no one’s favorite or most trusted agency at this point) wants you to get a flu shot.
Please get a flu shot.
Look, I know there are naysayers about every and all types of vaccines, and bitter disagreement about the timing and safety of said vaccines. You’ve already talked to some of them, it sounds like.
Now you’re talking to me, and I say: Please get a flu shot.
I don’t give a crap about whether or not someone “believes” in a specific vaccine or not. We’re not talking about Santa Claus or unicorns here. Anyone who continues to underestimate the safety and strength we all gain from vaccines is clearly not paying attention to the fact that whooping cough and measles are coming back and harming innocent, vulnerable people: newborns, babies, the immunocompromised, pregnant women.
“Oh, come on. We’re just talking about the flu! So it sucks for awhile but then you’re fine! It’s not like the damn polio vaccine!”
Yes, there’s a difference between the flu shot and the MMR or something, but for a pregnant woman, the flu DOES pose a bigger risk than for the non-pregnant among us. And it’s a risk you can mitigate with a flu shot.
I was never a huge “omg I gotta go get a flu shot” person. I got one in college and felt sick and crappy afterwards (probably with that patented college blend of COLD + HANGOVER + BEING A HUGE BABY) but of course convinced myself that the shot was to blame and that it “gave me the flu” and I swore off the shot for years. I never got the flu, ergo, I was right and the flu vaccine was a crock of useless crap.
Once I started having children, though, I got over myself and obeyed my doctors’ recommendation that everyone in our household get the flu shot for the safety of the baby. My first two pregnancies managed to begin and end outside of peak flu season, however, so I never had to really deal with the decision to get the shot while pregnant. I’d either get the shot before I was pregnant or not long after giving birth.
And then there was my third pregnancy. Which began right as the flu shot clinic signs started going up. And yet for some reason I kept putting off getting a shot, thinking I’d get it from my OB’s office and then forgetting to ask for it, while my husband took the older kids to get their shots (and his), while I probably hung out on the bathroom floor trying not to barf. At some point I said, screw it, the rest of my family is vaccinated and I work from home and never go anywhere; I’LL BE FINE.
Yeah, I got the flu while pregnant.
It. Was. Awful. I was so sick, for so long. And it was terrifying, because I just couldn’t get better and couldn’t stop wondering what the hell have I done to my baby?
I consider myself, very, very lucky that I wasn’t hospitalized. I was very close, due to dehydration and fever. I consider myself lucky that my pregnancy continued safely and that Ike did not suffer any obvious complications.
I also consider myself very, very stupid for not just getting that stupid shot in the first place.
Here’s where I get brutally honest: During my illness, I brilliantly happened to Google a few studies that linked flu during a mother’s pregnancy to adult-onset schizophrenia. I just. Oh my God. I can’t even read about it. I just keep foolishly hoping that the link will be disproven or downplayed at some point. The fear and guilt I feel when even thinking about that is infinitely worse than any of the fear/nervousness I might have had about getting a vaccine while pregnant.
Why didn’t I get the shot? I don’t know. Because I thought the flu wasn’t a big deal. Because I thought I was the sort of person who never got the flu. Because I never thought getting the flu while pregnant would happen to me, until it did.
Please get a flu shot.