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Pregnant Women & Influenza (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 (and women up to two weeks postpartum) more prone to severe illness from flu, as well as to hospitalizations and even death. Pregnant women with flu also have a greater chance for serious problems for their developing baby, including premature labor and delivery.

The Flu Shot is the Best Protection Against Flu

Getting a flu shot is the first and most important step in protecting against flu. The flu shot given during pregnancy has been shown to protect both the mother and her baby for several months after birth from flu. The nasal spray vaccine should not be given to women who are pregnant. Learn more about the flu vaccine.

The Flu Shot is Safe for Pregnant Women

The risk of premature labor and delivery increases when pregnant women get the flu, and there is a greater chance of their babies having birth defects. Flu shots are a safe way to protect the mother and her baby from serious illness and complications from flu. 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. See Seasonal Flu Vaccine Safety and Pregnant Women for more information.

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 symptoms call your doctor right away. There are prescription antiviral drugs that can treat flu illness and prevent serious flu complications. CDC recommends that pregnant women with flu symptoms be treated with these drugs.

Having a fever caused by flu infection or other infections early in pregnancy can lead to birth defects in a baby. 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 Medical Care

If you are pregnant and 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

Note: There is no recommendation for pregnant women or people with pre-existing medical conditions to get special permission or written consent from their doctor or health care professional for influenza vaccination if they get vaccinated at a worksite clinic, pharmacy or other location outside of their physician’s office. For more information, visit Misconceptions about Seasonal Flu and Flu Vaccines.

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