Influenza, commonly known as the "flu," is a viral infection that usually starts in the upper respiratory tract and often is associated with fevers, sore throat, body aches and chills.

The physiological stresses of pregnancy compromise a woman's immune system and, in turn, make her more susceptible to complications from the virus.

From severe pneumonia, which can be dangerous to the mother and fetus, to miscarriage and pre-term labor, the influenza virus presents many risks during pregnancy.

Therefore, it is highly recommended that pregnant women receive the flu shot, even more so if they are pregnant between the months of November and March.

There are many misconceptions about the flu shot. Despite what some may think, the flu shot is a safe and highly effective means of preventing the flu.

In contrast to the nasal flu vaccine, which is a live virus, the flu shot is an inactivated virus and, therefore, cannot cause the flu. Those with compromised immune systems, including pregnant women, are advised not to get the nasal flu vaccine.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all high-risk individuals receive the flu shot. Pregnant women top that list.

Babies born during flu season are at risk of getting the flu; however, they are not eligible to receive the flu shot. Evidence suggests that the immunity a pregnant woman receives from the flu shot is carried to the infant as well.

Getting the flu shot is one of the easiest and most effective ways for a pregnant woman to safeguard her health and that of her unborn baby.

• Dr. Michael Urig is chief of obstetrics and gynecology at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center. For more information on this topic, talk with your doctor, or call Urig's Ahwatukee office at (480) 759-9191.

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