Why You Should Get the Flu Shot While Pregnant

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To the list of do’s and don’ts for pregnancy, add another “do:” get a flu shot.

“I advise all pregnant women in any trimester to get the influenza vaccine (flu shot) because it is safe and flu in pregnancy can be deadly,” said Thomas Neely, MD, an OB/GYN who just joined Baptist Health Medical Group in Madisonville.

The federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently released findings that getting the vaccine reduces a pregnant woman’s risk of hospitalization from flu by an average of 40 percent. Other studies also indicate that a flu vaccine given during pregnancy helps protect the baby from flu for several months after birth before he or she is old enough for vaccination.

The CDC recommends pregnant women get a flu shot because they are at high risk of developing flu illness serious enough to require hospitalization. Dr. Neely said he has had pregnant patients pass up getting a flu shot, get the flu and become seriously ill.

“Fortunately, the patients and their babies were OK in the long run,” he said.

“Because the flu shot is not 100 percent protective, pregnant women who get the shot should also practice good hand hygiene and avoid being around sick people as much as possible, he added.

One caution: pregnant women should not receive the nasal spray vaccine, as it contains a live virus.

Only about half of pregnant women in the United States report getting a flu shot. More than 80 percent of pregnancies overlap with flu season, underscoring the likelihood that pregnant women will be exposed to flu at some point during their pregnancy.

Baptist Urgent Care, 1851 North Main St., Madisonville, Kentucky, is one no-appointment option for getting a flu shot. The clinic is open from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Friday and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Shots, which cost $40, without insurance, are now available. Most insurance does cover the cost of the flu shot.

Dr. Neely has practiced general obstetrics and gynecology in Madisonville and Western Kentucky for about 30 years. He joined the Baptist Health Medical Group in November, with an office at 800 Hospital Drive in Madisonville. Dr. Neely is currently accepting new patients. For an appointment, call 270.326.3900.

 Thomas Neely, MD