Q: I intend to get pregnant soon. Should I get a flu vaccine this season?
A: Yes, you should. And you should plan to have the vaccine before you get pregnant.
We expect that 10 to 20 percent of the U.S. population will catch the influenza virus next winter. Even if you got immunized last year, that is not enough to protect you.
The influenza virus changes its genetic code rapidly. Each year the vaccine is modified in order to fight the strains most likely to cause infection in the year to come.
You don’t ever want to get the flu, but it’s especially important to protect yourself against infection during pregnancy, when tremendous hormonal changes cause a decrease in your immune system’s response to viral “invaders.”
Once pregnant, otherwise-healthy women become extremely high-risk for flu complications and are more likely to get really sick — with higher fevers and pneumonia. There is also a risk of premature delivery as well as developmental problems (perhaps even schizophrenia) in the child many years later.
The current recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control is that all women who plan to be pregnant during flu season should be vaccinated ahead of time. Getting the vaccine should be part of your pre-conception planning.
The vaccine is given starting in late September, to be ready for the height of the flu season, which is late fall and early winter.
If you get pregnant without having been vaccinated, you should still get the vaccine during the second and third trimesters. There is some concern about vaccination in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy.
Dr. Reichman’s Bottom LineWe don’t want pregnant women getting viral infections! Women planning to become pregnant should get the influenza vaccine, preferably before their pregnancy.
Dr. Judith Reichman, the “Today” show's medical contributor on women's health, has practiced obstetrics and gynecology for more than 20 years. You will find many answers to your questions in her latest book, "Slow Your Clock Down: The Complete Guide to a Healthy, Younger You," published by William Morrow, a division of .
PLEASE NOTE: The information in this column should not be construed as providing specific medical advice, but rather to offer readers information to better understand their lives and health. It is not intended to provide an alternative to professional treatment or to replace the services of a physician.