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Should I Get a Flu Shot While I'm Pregnant?

Scott Schultz, MD, FACOG, ACMC-Litchfield, Obstetrics/Gynecology

Sometimes it feels like you have a never-ending supply of questions while you're pregnant. I hear them every day in my practice. What foods can I eat? Are there medications I should avoid? Can I even get a flu shot?

The answer to that last question is yes, you can. And you should.

In fact, the Center for Disease Control and prevention—and every OB out there—recommends that anyone who is pregnant during flu season gets a flu shot. Because flu season runs from early October through late May, that's you! And you can get the flu shot at any time during your pregnancy no matter what trimester you are in.

Pregnancy puts extra stress on your heart, lungs and immune system, making it easier to catch the flu and other illnesses. Flu during pregnancy can also increase your risk of miscarriage, premature birth or low birth weight. Pregnancy can also make women more prone to severe illness resulting in hospitalization or even death. But the flu shot can help prevent you from getting the flu or subsequent complications from the flu. And since infants can't get a flu shot until they are at least six months old, it also helps protect your baby after birth by passing these antibodies along to your baby in the womb.

Pregnant women should get the flu shot, not the nasal spray, since the shot is an inactivated virus and is safer for you and your baby. If you're allergic to eggs or have had a severe reaction to a flu shot, check with your doctor to see what you should do.
I think it's important for patients to know that even if you get a flu shot, you can still get the flu. However, the flu shot typically helps shorten the duration and severity of the illness.

If you have symptoms of the flu such as fever, cough, sore throat, head ache, body aches, runny or stuffy nose, vomiting or diarrhea, call your doctor immediately. When you're pregnant, it's more important than ever for you to stay healthy. There are medications that are safe to take during pregnancy that can help treat your flu and lessen your chance of serious illness.

If I can offer one final piece of advice, when it comes to flu vaccinations make sure that your family gets vaccinated, too, to help protect you and baby from the flu. Wishing you—and baby—a healthy flu season.