Pregnant? Don’t go without a flu shot.

Is the flu shot safe for pregnant women? It’s a question many women ask themselves after they learn they’ll be having a little one.

According to Dr. Christopher Mernitz, an OB/GYN at St.Vincent Carmel Hospital, flu shots aren’t just safe for pregnant women – they’re crucial. That’s because pregnancy causes a decrease in immunity, making expecting mothers more susceptible to the flu, and possibly leading to more severe complications.

“Right now, the bottom line is that the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends the vaccine for all pregnant women,” Mernitz said of the latest shot that also guards against the H1N1 strain. “We go with this recommendation because there’s a significant health benefit.”

Mernitz said the CDC has closely studied the effects of the vaccine on pregnant women, and he feels confident in the findings. “There have been a lot of discussions about the safety of the vaccine. But the CDC has done a marvelous job of collecting and looking at data. It all shows that the vaccine is safe for women in pregnancy,” he said.

Pregnant mothers, their husbands, and other family members should also get the flu vaccine to help them avoid coming down with the flu when the baby is born. Vaccines for other illnesses, like whooping cough, should also be up to date.

While some people fear getting sick from the shot, Mernitz said such fears are unfounded. “A lot of people have heard they always get sick when they get the vaccine. The data shows it doesn’t happen. With all of the illnesses going around this time of year, it is coincidental more than anything.”

Still, many mothers prefer to wait until after the first trimester for the vaccine. And Mernitz sees that as fine — as long as they get eventually get the vaccine. He added that where one goes for the shot isn’t a big concern – just choose the easiest and most affordable place.

“The flu kills thousands of people in the U.S. every year,” he said. “While the likelihood is very, very low of mothers getting the flu and dying, it happens more frequently when you’re pregnant. So the vaccine is an important way to protect yourself.”

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