What pregnant women should know about the flu vaccine

Dr. Tina Ardon a Family Medicine Physician with Mayo Clinic talked with us about what to do if your pregnant and are deciding on a flu vaccine.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Pregnant women can be at higher risk of complications if they contract the flu because of normal immune system changes that happen during pregnancy, health officials warn.

There’s also a higher risk of pregnancy complications, such as preterm labor and preterm birth, if you get the flu.

You are more likely to be hospitalized if you get the flu while you are pregnant than when you are not pregnant, and your risk of dying from the flu is increased as well.

That’s why it’s important for pregnant women to get vaccinated for the flu as soon as possible.

It is safe to receive the flu vaccine during any trimester of pregnancy, health care professionals say.

The flu mist or nasal spray is not recommended for pregnant women, but the flu shot, which contains inactive virus, is. Both are safe for breastfeeding mothers, however.

If you think you have the flu while you are pregnant (or you have had a baby within the past two weeks), contact your obstetrician or other health care professional right away, experts said.

Taking an antiviral medication as soon as possible is recommended.

Flu symptoms may include the following:

  • Fever or feeling feverish
  • Chills
  • Body aches
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Cough or sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose

Antiviral medication is available by prescription. It is most effective when taken within 48 hours of the onset of flu symptoms, but there still is some benefit to taking it up to 4–5 days after symptoms start. An antiviral drug does not cure the flu, but it can shorten how long it lasts as well as the severity of the illness. Even if you just think you have the flu, it is best to be on the safe side and contact your obstetrician or other member of your health care team.

For more information on pregnancy and the flu, click here.