Getting your flu shot while pregnant
Flu season is upon us once again, bringing with it concern to women who are pregnant or are have recently delivered young infants as to what is the best approach to stay healthy.
Did you know that being pregnant, you are at a higher risk for more severe illness from the flu compared to 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, such as pneumonia and difficulty breathing, as well as hospitalizations and sadly, sometimes even death.
Pregnant women with flu also have a greater chance for serious problems for their unborn baby, including premature labor and delivery.
Flu shots can protect pregnant women, their unborn babies and even protect the baby after birth.
Should you get a flu shot while you're pregnant?
The answer is, yes. The flu shot is your best protection against the flu. The flu shot given during pregnancy has been shown to protect both the mother and her baby (up to 6 months old) from flu. (However, the nasal spray vaccine should not be given to women who are pregnant).
Is it safe?
Flu shots are a safe and effective way to protect the mother and her unborn child from serious illness and complications of flu. The flu shot has been given to millions of pregnant women over many years. Flu shots have not been shown to cause any harm to pregnant women or their babies.
What if you get the flu?
Early treatment is especially important for pregnant women. If you get sick with flu-like symptoms call your doctor right away. If needed, the doctor will prescribe an antiviral medicine that treats the flu. Having a fever caused by flu infection or other infections early in pregnancy can lead to birth defects in an unborn child. Pregnant women who get a fever should treat their fever with Tylenol® (or store brand equivalent) and contact their doctor as soon as possible.
When to seek emergency care:
If you have any of these signs while pregnant, call 911 right away.
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
- Sudden dizziness
- Severe or persistent vomiting
- High fever that is not responding to Tylenol® (or store brand equivalent)
- Decreased or no movement of your baby
Taking steps to prepare for flu season, knowing the facts about vaccines, and danger signs will help you and your baby stay healthy through this flu season.
When and where to get your flu shot
You should talk to your doctor about getting your flu shot. It's best to get your flu shot in the beginning of flu season, which typically lasts from early October through late March. Call your doctor’s office to make an appointment to get your flu shot.
Want to learn more? Check out these helpful links:
- CDC: Pregnant Women & Influenza
- Virginia Department of Health Flu Facts
- America College of Obstetrics and Gynecology Committee Opinion: Influenza Vaccination During Pregnancy
- American Academy of Pediatrics Flu Information
About The Author
Diana J. Behling has been a nurse since 1984 when she graduated with a BSN from Villanova University. With a strong clinical background in psychiatric and women’s health nursing, she obtained her master’s degree in healthcare law from Widener University School of Law in 2002. Since 2008 she has worked for Sentara Healthcare, serving as the Ob Right Program Manager and the Nursing Lead of the Women’s Health Clinical Effectiveness Council. She is passionate about patient safety and is pursuing her Doctor of Nursing Practice at Old Dominion University. She is Mom to a big blended family of 4 girls, 1 boy, 2 dogs and a rescued horse, and enjoys travel with her husband Chris and quilting in her free time.