Four reasons why every pregnant woman should get the flu shot

As the U.S. gears up for flu season, it’s important to remember that pregnant women face an especially high risk of flu complications, which can also affect the health of the womb and the fetus inside. In fact, pregnant women, regardless of which trimester they’re in, are three times as likely to be hospitalized for flu-related complications as non-pregnant women.

Here are four reasons why all pregnant women should get the flu shot:

1) Pregnancy weakens your immune system.

In pregnancy, a woman’s immune system changes so her body doesn’t treat the fetus growing inside her as a foreign invader. While this adaptation contributes to a healthy pregnancy, it also means that pregnant women are more susceptible to infections, like influenza, and face a higher risk of complications from those infections.

2) Pregnancy affects your lungs.

As the uterus expands during pregnancy, it presses against the diaphragm, putting increased pressure on the lungs. This increases the risk of respiratory infections, including influenza and pneumonia, and can lead to serious -- sometimes life-threatening complications.

3) Flu shots can prevent birth defects.

Influenza often causes a high fever. When a pregnant woman runs a fever, her elevated body temperature can increase the risk of her fetus developing neural tube defects. Getting the flu shot can decrease the risk of contracting influenza, which decreases the risk of the baby being born with a significant birth defect.

4) A flu shot helps strengthen your baby’s immune system.

Since infants can’t get the flu shot until they’re six months old, getting a flu shot in pregnancy means your baby will receive antibodies to influenza through the placenta and will be born with higher immunity to influenza than babies whose mothers did not get the flu shot.