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Seasonal flu vaccine and your pregnancy

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 (and women up to two weeks postpartum) more prone to severe illness from flu.

Flu also may be harmful for a pregnant woman’s developing baby.   A common flu symptom is fever, which may be associated with neural tube defects and other adverse outcomes for a developing baby.   Getting vaccinated can also help protect a baby after birth from flu. Mom passes antibodies onto the developing baby during her pregnancy.

A Flu Vaccine is the Best Protection against Flu

Getting a flu vaccine is the first and most important step in protecting against flu.  Flu vaccines given during pregnancy help protect both the mother and her baby from flu.  The vaccination has been shown to reduce the risk of flu-associated acute respiratory infection in pregnant women by up to one-half.  Getting a flu shot reduces a pregnant woman’s risk of being hospitalized with flu by an average of 40 percent.  Pregnant women who get a flu vaccine are also helping to protect their babies from flu illness for the first several months after their birth, when they are too young to get vaccinated.

Flu shots have been given to millions of pregnant women over many years with a good safety record.  Research has consistently demonstrated it’s safe to have the flu vaccine during pregnancy.

Side effects

The most commonly reported side effects of flu vaccines are:

  • pain, swelling, bruising, hardness or redness at the injection site
  • slightly raised temperature (fever)
  • headache
  • sweating
  • aching joints or muscles
  • shivering
  • tiredness
  • feeling generally unwell

These common side effects are transient and disappear within a day or two.

popular myth that continues to circulate is that the flu vaccine can give you the flu.   The flu vaccine does not contain a live virus, so contracting flu from the vaccination is impossible.

What do I do if I have flu symptoms?

It’s always best to call your doctor if you’re pregnant and develop flu-like symptoms such as fever, body aches, cough and headache.  It’s advisable to do this even if you’ve been vaccinated against the flu.  There are medications your doctor can recommend that are safe for use during pregnancy; however, they work best if commenced within a couple of days of symptoms starting.