Influenza (Flu) Vaccine and Pregnancy

Pregnant women and their babies are at increased risk for influenza-related complications. Pregnant women are also more likely to be hospitalized with flu than women of reproductive age who are not pregnant.

CDC has received reports of flu hospitalizations and deaths in pregnant women with influenza virus infection. It is important that we stay vigilant in protecting pregnant and postpartum women from flu.

Your recommendations make a difference to your patients. The first and most important step for flu prevention is a flu vaccine. Treatment with flu antiviral drugs is our second line of defense against flu.

3 Facts about Flu Vaccination, Treatment and Pregnancy

  1. Pregnant women should receive a seasonal flu shot.
    • Influenza is more likely to cause severe illness in pregnant and postpartum women than in women who are not pregnant. Changes in the immune system, heart, and lungs during pregnancy make pregnant women more prone to severe illness from influenza.
    • Vaccination has been shown to reduce the risk of flu-associated acute respiratory infection in pregnant women by about one-half.
    • Getting a flu shot can reduce a pregnant woman’s risk of being hospitalized with flu by an average of 40 percent.
    • Pregnant women who get a flu shot 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.

More information on the importance of flu vaccination during pregnancy is available.

  1. Flu vaccination is safe during pregnancy.
    • Flu shots have been given to millions of pregnant women over several decades with a good safety record.
    • Pregnant women should get a flu shot; NOT the live attenuated vaccine (LAIV or nasal spray).
    • Postpartum women, even if they are breastfeeding, can receive either type of vaccine.
    • There is a lot of evidence to show that flu shots can be safely given to women during pregnancy. CDC and ACIP recommend that pregnant women get vaccinated during any trimester of their pregnancy.

More information on the safety of flu vaccination is available.

  1. Antiviral drugs can treat flu illness and are recommended for pregnant women who are sick with flu.
    • When used for treatment, antiviral drugs can lessen symptoms and shorten the time your patients are sick. They also can prevent serious flu complications, like pneumonia.
    • During the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, prompt antiviral treatment of hospitalized pregnant women was shown to prevent respiratory failure and death.
    • Studies show that flu antiviral drugs work best for treatment when they are started within 2 days of getting sick. However, starting them later can still be beneficial, especially for patients who are at high risk for flu complications such as pregnant women.

More information regarding flu antiviral drugs is available online.

For research citations and more details on the information above, visit ACIP Recommendations and Pregnancy (Flu).