Be sure to get your flu shot during pregnancy

Flu season is here, and if you're pregnant you need to make sure that you're doing all you can to keep yourself healthy this winter. The Wisconsin Journal-Sentinel reported that there have been 26 hospitalizations and four flu-related deaths in the state already, and the worst of the winter is yet to come.

You may be wondering if it's safe to get a flu shot during your pregnancy, and the answer is yes. In fact, it's extremely important for pregnant women to get vaccinated to protect themselves and their babies against the flu, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urges all women who are expecting to head to their doctor or a local pharmacy's health clinic for one of these shots.

More dangerous in pregnancy
According to the CDC, if pregnant women catch the flu, they are more likely to end up with a severe illness than women who are not expecting. When you're pregnant, there are changes to your immune system as well as your heart and lungs that can make you more prone to getting extremely sick, or even dying from the flu. Also, contracting this illness can increase your risk of experiencing a miscarriage or preterm birth.

However, there is a simple way to protect yourself and your baby from the flu, and that's getting a shot. The flu vaccine has been shown to protect both mothers and babies from infection, and is safe to get during any trimester. However, it most effectively protects babies who are 6 months into fetal development, so if possible you should get it early in your pregnancy.

The CDC adds that pregnant women have been getting the flu shot for many years and it has never been shown to cause damage to them or their babies.

Helps after birth
The flu shot will not only help protect your unborn baby, it may also help your infant after his or her birth. According to the Mayo Clinic, infants have a high risk of contracting the flu, but they cannot receive the shot until they are at least 6 months old. However, if you get the shot during pregnancy, the antibodies you develop will get passed on to your baby through the placenta.

The Mayo Clinic cited a 2011 study which found that babies whose mothers get the flu shot are 50 percent less likely to develop the flu during the first influenza season they experienced than those whose moms were not vaccinated.

When you go to get immunized, you may consider asking for the shot instead of the nasal spray. This is because the shot contains an inactive form of the virus so it will not harm fetal development, while the nasal spray has a live form which may not be appropriate during pregnancy.

Other ways to prevent the flu
Along with getting the shot, it's important for pregnant women to do all they can to avoid developing the flu. First, you should avoid close contact with anyone who is sick. In addition, you may want to encourage anyone you work with to stay home if they are feeling ill rather than putting you and your baby in danger.

Also, you should always wash your hands regularly, particularly after being out in public when you may have encountered a number of germs.

Finally, keeping yourself healthy can help keep you safe from the flu. This means getting plenty of rest, eating a balanced diet filled with fruits and vegetables, drinking a lot of fluids and managing stress properly.

You should talk to your doctor for other tips on how to avoid developing the flu during your pregnancy.