U.S. health officials stress the importance of pregnant women getting the 2009 H1N1 flu shot when the vaccine becomes available.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the H1N1 flu has hit pregnant women especially hard. About 700 cases have been confirmed in pregnant women since late April, about 100 pregnant women have required admission to intensive care units, and 28 pregnant women have died from the H1N1 flu, the CDC reported earlier this month.
“Because pregnant women who get influenza have a greater chance for serious complications, it is important they receive both the 2009 H1N1 flu shot and the seasonal flu shot. Receiving these vaccines is the best way pregnant women can protect themselves – and their newborns – against the flu,” said Rosalie Pepe, M.D., infectious disease specialist at Cooper University Hospital.
Research has found that women who get a flu shot during pregnancy get sick with the flu less often than pregnant women who do not get a flu shot. The same holds true for their newborns. Babies born to mothers who get a flu shot during pregnancy get sick with the flu less often than babies born to mothers who did not get a flu shot during pregnancy.
A woman can receive both the seasonal flu shot and the H1N1 flu shot at any time during pregnancy. But, pregnant women should get the vaccines by injection – a “flu shot” – not by nasal spray. The nasal spray vaccine is not approved for pregnant women.
The injectable vaccine is made with inactivated flu virus. It is given with a needle, usually in the arm. The nasal spray vaccine is made with live, weakened flu virus and should be used only in healthy people ages 2 to 49 years old, and women who are not pregnant.
Following delivery, new mothers can safely get either the injectable or nasal spray vaccine, even if they are breastfeeding. In fact, vaccinated mothers who are nursing can pass on vaccine antibodies to their infants and reduce their babies’ chances of getting sick with the flu. This is especially important for infants less than 6 months old, who have no other way of receiving vaccine antibodies because they are too young to be vaccinated.
Dr. Pepe reminds pregnant women to get both a seasonal flu shot and a H1N1 flu shot as early as possible.
“You will need both shots this year to fully protect yourself and your baby against the flu. Both shots are absolutely safe and recommended for pregnant women and nursing mothers,” she said.
Additional H1N1 Flu Resources from Cooper University Hospital
- H1N1 Influenza and Seasonal Flu Information and Resources – Cooperhealth.org
Visit our H1N1 resource page for information to help you and your family prepare for this year’s flu season. We will be updating this page as new information becomes available.
- Health eTalk Web Chat: Your Questions about H1N1 Pandemic Flu – Cooperhealth.org/etalk
Join Rosalie Pepe, M.D., of Cooper University Hospital’s Division of Infectious Diseases, as she answers your questions live on Cooperhealth.org. No question is too big or too small, as she’ll help you sort through the rumors and debunk the myths.