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Preventative Measures: Getting the Flu Shot During Pregnancy

Chantal Standafer

 Nothing like family snuggles. 

Nothing like family snuggles. 

As we get into August, thoughts of flu start to pop up. Not because it's going around yet, but the signs offering the flu shot are appearing at pharmacies. It's a gentle reminder that the flu season (generally October-March, but even into May) is just around the corner. 

The flu is a respiratory illness caused by the influenza viruses. It is contagious, believed to be passed by droplets created when infected people cough, sneeze or talk (so basically normal daily life being in contact with other humans). People can be contagious before they show signs of the illness, and can remain contagious for a number of days after coming down with it. This illness is characterized by a number of not so lovely symptoms including fever, fatigue, and body aches, among others. To put it mildly, it's not pretty. 

Getting the flu while pregnant can be especially challenging and dangerous. According to the CDC, because of the natural changes in women's bodies during pregnancy, they are at greater risk of serious complications from the flu, including hospitalization, preterm labor and delivery. 

Good news is that woman can receive the flu shot! While there are two available deliveries of the vaccine, the Mayo Clinic makes a clear recommendation that pregnant women only receive the shot and should steer clear of the nasal spray (the latter is made from a live virus, which is to be avoided during pregnancy). The effect of the vaccination is two-fold. Just like when getting the Tdap during pregnancy, the mother is protected, plus she transfers immunity to the baby. This is extremely important because infants cannot receive a flu vaccination until they are 6 months old. 

Be sure to talk with your OB/GYN or midwife about any questions you have. They are there to help and want you to have the healthiest pregnancy possible! Plus, there's a good chance you can get your flu shot at one of your upcoming appointments. But don't worry, if that's not an option most pharmacies can administer the shot too (and usually without much of a wait)!