What's Up With the Flu Shot?
If you're pregnant during flu season (October through April...aka now)- your midwife or doctor may suggest getting the flu shot, and she won't be alone. Virtually every major medical organization, including the CDC, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the ACNM recommends the flu vaccine for mamas-to-be. Partly because your immune system is suppressed during pregnancy, leaving you more vulnerable to illness, and partly it's because pregnant women are more likely to develop severe complications from the flu. Getting the flu shot may also provide immunity to your baby for the first six months or so of his or her life.
It's no secret, however, that vaccinations of all kinds are controversial, especially in the natural world. And in fact, plenty of natural-minded practitioners choose to focus instead on lifestyle factors-in particular good hygiene, clean diet, and adequate rest- as it relates to warding off illness and boosting immunity.
Isn't that less effective than getting the flu shot, you may be wondering? Well, it kinda depends on how you look at it. There are literally hundreds of strains of influenza, for example, and the effectiveness of the vaccine differs (often significantly) from year to year. Meanwhile, a 2014 Cochrane review of more than 116 studies determined that the vaccine had only a "very modest effect" in reducing symptoms in the general population. There are staunch advocates on either side of the debate, so as with all healthcare decisions, you should do your own research, talk to you midwife or doctor, and together decide what's the best course of action for you.
If you do opt for the vaccine, be sure to stick with a thimerosal-free version. Thimerosal is a mercury-based preservative present in multi-dose vials. Single-dose vials and prefilled syringes should not contain thimerosal, although some brands may contain trace amounts. Alo important to point out: the nasal spray vaccine is not considered safe for pregnant women, as it contains a live form of the virus.
For mamas looking for more targeted natural options, you might want to explore homeopathic medicine, which is gentle and generally safe to take during pregnancy. For flu prevention, check out Influenzinum 9c, which is updated each year based on recommendations from the World Health Organization. Some crunchy mamas take it in combination with Thymuline 9C (an immune system booster) for natural protection all winter long, and add Anacoccinum 200C (an acute flu relief remedy) if and when symptoms appear.