Skip directly to search Skip directly to A to Z list Skip directly to navigation Skip directly to page options Skip directly to site content

Pregnant? Get a Flu Shot!

Pregnant woman reading bookIf you're pregnant, a flu shot is your best protection against serious flu illness. A flu shot can protect pregnant women, their unborn babies, and even the baby after birth.

The Flu and Pregnant Women

If you're pregnant, a flu shot is your best protection against serious illness and complications from the flu.

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 developing severe illness from flu, which can lead to hospitalization or even death. A pregnant woman sick with the flu also has a greater chance that her unborn baby will suffer serious problems, including premature labor and delivery.

Screenshot from Protect Yourself Protect Your Baby video

A flu shot can protect pregnant women, their unborn babies, and even the baby after birth.Watch a short, fun video that explains why!

The Flu Shot is the Best Protection against 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 unborn baby from serious flu-related complications. If you get vaccinated during pregnancy, your baby also is born with some flu antibodies that will help protect them from flu for up to 6 months after they are born. This is important because babies younger than 6 months can't get vaccinated yet, but they are at highest risk of being hospitalized from the flu. An additional way to protect your baby after birth is for all of the baby's caregivers and close contacts (including brothers and sisters, grandparents and babysitters) to also get vaccinated against the flu. Learn more about the importance of flu vaccination for pregnant women [512 KB].

You can get a flu shot during any trimester of your pregnancy. (Pregnant women should not get the nasal spray vaccine.)

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. The side effects that can occur from a flu shot, like soreness or redness where the shot is given, are very minor compared to the serious problems that flu illness could cause for pregnant women and their babies.

It is very important for pregnant women to get the flu shot. Some pregnant women are worried about trace amounts of thimerosal in flu shots. Thimerosal is a mercury-based preservative that has been used for decades in the United States in multi-dose vials (vials containing more than one dose) of some vaccines to prevent their contamination with germs, bacteria and fungi. Some of the flu shots produced for the United States each flu season come in multi-dose vials, and contain thimerosal to safeguard against possible contamination of the vial once it is opened. But manufacturers also make single-dose flu shots without thimerosal.

The single-dose units are made without thimerosal as a preservative because they are intended to be opened and used only once. While the most recent and rigorous scientific research shows that thimerosal-containing vaccines are not harmful, if you are worried about thimerosal, just ask your doctor or other health care professional for a thimerosal-free flu shot.

Other Preventive Actions

In addition to getting the flu shot, pregnant women should take additional everyday preventive actions.

Early Treatment is 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 contact their doctor as soon as possible.

When to Seek Emergency Medical Care

If you have any of these signs, call 911 right away:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • High fever that is not responding to Tylenol® (or store brand equivalent)
  • Decreased or no movement of your baby
Top