I’m writing this while I’m home sick. My throat is sore. I have a headache. My nose is running and I may even have a fever. Pretty standard symptoms for the common cold. For the past month, it has been cycling through my family as one or the other of us have been off work or school for a day or two.
But last Thursday we did something together as a family that is critical for our health: we got our flu shot.
Getting the flu shot is pretty much nobody’s idea of a good time, even if it only takes 5 minutes. Our appointment was at 8 am and we still had plenty of time to drop the kids off at school at 8:25. My kids had plenty of whining and moaning about it beforehand, but in reality, it doesn’t hurt all that much. I used to be afraid of needles, but when my sister was diagnosed with leukemia and needed a bone marrow transplant, I got over that fear real fast. Somehow when someone you love needs real serious medicine or they’ll die, a fear of needles seems rather unimportant.
But while getting your flu shot every year is important for protecting the health of those you love (like immunocompromised sisters with leukemia), it is never more important than when you’re pregnant. Because being pregnant can make you more susceptible to the flu in two ways. First, your immune system is compromised when you’re pregnant naturally. This is because your baby is essentially a foreign body living inside you, and you really don’t want your immune system attacking your fetus. The second reason is because while your baby grows, your lung capacity is diminished. The flu, which is a major respiratory infection, can do a lot more damage.
So if you’re pregnant, or if someone you love is pregnant, you need to get the flu shot. Even if you’re scared of needles.
My job, the one I’m home sick from, is a medical librarian. It’s my job to find and evaluate medical information and teach nursing students, medical students and rehabilitation therapy students how to do it properly. I have a Master’s degree and 14 years of experience. So while I definitely speak from my personal experience, I also speak with the authority of someone who knows what they’re talking about. There have been numerous studies on the safety and efficacy of the flu vaccine while pregnant. We know it works. We know it is safe.
If you’re reading this, you have probably lost a baby before. You know that heartache firsthand. This isn’t just some abstract thought for you. You want to do all you can to protect yourself and your baby. So take five minutes to get your flu shot. And encourage your loved ones to do the same.