Protecting Against the Flu During Pregnancy

Protecting Against the Flu During Pregnancy

There may be a lot of uncertainties surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, but one thing is clear: If you are pregnant, getting the flu shot is one of the best things you can do to protect yourself and your developing baby.

Getting a flu shot during pregnancy is not only safe, it’s recommended. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend that all women who are pregnant during flu season get a flu shot, regardless of their trimester.

Why should pregnant women get the flu shot?

  • Prevent the flu and maternal complications. The flu is more likely to cause severe illness in pregnant women. Flu-related complications during pregnancy can include premature labor and preterm birth. Research has shown that getting a flu shot decreases a pregnant woman’s risk of being hospitalized by an average of 40%
  • Prevent potential fetal health problems due to the flu. Having a fever caused by the flu early in pregnancy might increase the risk of fetal birth defects.
  • Protect your baby after birth. Infants are at increased risk of severe flu symptoms, but the flu vaccine can’t be given until a baby is 6 months old. If you have a flu shot during pregnancy, the antibodies you develop will pass through the placenta and, if you’re breast-feeding, breast milk. These antibodies help protect your baby from the flu after birth.

Getting the Shot

When you get vaccinated, specifically request the flu shot — not the nasal spray vaccine. The flu shot is made from an inactivated virus, so it’s safe for both mother and baby during any stage of pregnancy. The nasal spray vaccine isn’t recommended for use in pregnant women.

The Flu vs. COVID-19

While the flu shot won’t protect you from the coronavirus, getting a flu vaccine is especially important this season. Here’s why…

  • Because the flu and COVID-19 cause similar symptoms, getting a flu vaccination could reduce symptoms that might be confused with those caused by COVID-19. Some of the symptoms specific to COVID-19 include change in or loss of taste or smell.
  • You are more at risk of having more severe symptoms and severe complications from a dual infection – Flu AND COVID-19.
  • Getting the flu shot is important in order to significantly decrease the spread within the community. Everyone age 6 months and older should get the flu vaccine as directed by their health care providers.
  • Preventing the flu and reducing the severity of flu illness and hospitalizations could lessen the stress on the health care system.

As always, talk to your OB-GYN about any concerns about the flu shot during pregnancy.