Evidence continues to mount that the flu vaccine provides protection for both the pregnant woman and her child.
While an earlier observational study (with methodological flaws) questioned the benefit of flu vaccine in pregnancy, a randomized controlled trial in Bangladesh showed that the flu vaccine protected both the mother and the infant from the flu when the mother was vaccinated.
In addition, two newer studies support the benefit of flu vaccination during pregnancy.
One study revealed a sharp reduction in flu season hospitalizations among infants whose mothers were vaccinated against the flu, while the other showed a decreased risk of premature and small-for-gestational-age births.
Is the flu vaccine safe for pregnant women?
Because the flu shot is an inactivated vaccine and contains no live virus, vaccine experts believe it is extremely safe for pregnant women.
An early study of the flu shot in more than 2,000 pregnant women revealed no excess malignancies in the fetus.
A similar but smaller study revealed no harmful effects of the flu vaccine on the fetus or the mother. More recent research found no serious adverse effects from the flu vaccine in the perinatal period or during the first six months of infant life.
While the numbers of patients in these studies are relatively small, the results are reassuring. Subsequent studies with large numbers of pregnant women demonstrating the safety of flu vaccine are cited below.
Flu vaccine that is preservative-free will be offered to pregnant women at all PAMF locations. Pregnant women should not receive the live, intranasal flu vaccine.
Pregnancy flu shot side effects and safety facts
The flu shot is absolutely safe for pregnant women, but pregnant women should not receive the nasal-spray flu vaccine.
- Getting the flu shot during pregnancy can help protect the baby after it is born.
- It is recommended that pregnant women get the flu shot as soon as it is available.
- Changes in the body during pregnancy can make a woman more vulnerable to catching the flu.
- The flu is likely to be more severe in pregnant women than in non-pregnant women.
- The flu shot is safe for use in any trimester of pregnancy.
- The flu shot does not cause miscarriage or problems with the pregnancy.
Why does being pregnant put me at higher risk for getting the flu?
Changes to your immune system during pregnancy can make you more sensitive to the flu. This can result in serious problems for your unborn baby, including premature labor and delivery. Additionally, fever in early pregnancy can lead to birth defects.
How can I protect myself and my unborn child from the flu?
Get vaccinated as soon as the vaccine is available in your area. You will need to get the flu shot. The nasal spray flu vaccine is not recommended for pregnant women.
If you get the flu shot during your pregnancy, research shows it provides some protection to your baby both while you are pregnant and after the baby is born.
In addition, follow our everyday steps to keep you and your baby healthy this flu season.
How can I protect my baby once he or she is born?
Breastfeeding protects babies because breast milk passes your antibodies to your baby. The antibodies in breast milk help fight off infection. Studies show that babies who are breastfed do not get as sick and are sick less often than babies who are not breastfed.
If you get the flu, do not stop breastfeeding. Unless directed by your health care provider, continue to nurse your baby while being treated for the flu.
If I have the flu, what should I do?
If you get flu-like symptoms, contact your health care provider immediately. If necessary, your health care provider will prescribe an antiviral medicine to treat you. If you have a fever you should take Tylenol (or the store brand equivalent).
The flu shot is the best protection against the flu
Getting a flu shot is the first and most important step in protecting against flu. When given during pregnancy, the flu shot has been shown to protect both the mother and her baby (up to 6 months old) from flu.
The flu shot is safe to get at any time while you are pregnant, during any trimester. (The nasal spray vaccine should not be given to women who are pregnant.)
The flu shot is safe for pregnant women
Flu shots are a safe way to protect pregnant women and their unborn children from serious illness and complications of flu, like pneumonia.
The flu shot has been given to millions of pregnant women over many years. Flu shots have not been shown to cause harm to pregnant women or their babies. It is very important for pregnant women to get the flu shot.
When should I get emergency care?
- Seek immediate medical attention if you experience:
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
- Sudden dizziness
- Severe or persistent vomiting
- High fever
- Decreased or no movement by your baby
More reasons you need a flu shot if you are pregnant
If you’re pregnant, a flu shot is your best protection against serious illness from the flu. A flu shot can protect pregnant women, their unborn babies, and even the baby after birth.
If you’re pregnant, a flu shot is your best protection against serious illnesses caused by the flu.
The flu is more likely to cause severe illness in pregnant women than in women who are not pregnant. Changes in the immune system, heart and lungs during pregnancy make pregnant women more prone to severe illness from flu, which can lead to hospitalization or even death.
A pregnant woman with the flu also has a greater chance of serious problems for her unborn baby, including miscarriage or preterm birth.
A flu shot can protect pregnant women, their unborn babies, and even the baby after birth.
What do physicians think?
The vast majority of physician experts, including those at the CDC, the WHO, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, believe the flu shot is safe and protective for pregnant women and their infants and can be given in any stage of pregnancy.
PAMF strongly endorses this position. If you are pregnant and would like to discuss the flu vaccine further, please consult your primary care provider, obstetrician, or one of PAMF’s flu vaccine experts.