Flu Vaccine Protection for Pregnant Women & Their Unborn Babies

Pregnant woman getting a shot

Now that cold and flu season is upon us, it is especially important for pregnant women to safeguard themselves and their unborn babies against seasonal flu.

The flu vaccine is the best form of available protection against the flu, which can cause major complications for both expectant moms and their unborn babies.

Studies support and strongly urge expectant women to receive yearly flu vaccinations. A study on flu vaccine effectiveness in pregnant women found consistent vaccinations reduced the risk of flu-associated acute respiratory infection in pregnant women by about one half. Another study found babies of women who got a flu vaccine during their pregnancy were about one-third less likely to get sick with flu than babies of unvaccinated women.

Due to changes in their immune system, heart, and lungs during pregnancy, pregnant women have a greater risk for developing severe complications from the flu that may result in hospitalization or worse. Their unborn babies’ health and that of their other young children are also at greater risk of contracting the flu and its complications if they do not get the flu vaccine.

Facts about the Flu Vaccine and the Benefits for Pregnant Women and Unborn Babies:

  • Flu activity is usually highest between December and February, though flu activity can last until May. As long as flu viruses are circulating, it isn’t too late to get vaccinated, even after January. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for the body to produce flu-fighting antibodies.
  • The flu vaccine does not result in contracting a seasonal flu illness. There may be some injection site swelling in your arm accompanied by a low-grade fever, which signals your body’s immune system to produce flu-fighting antibodies, get strong, and ready itself to fight flu illnesses should you be exposed.
  • Yearly vaccines are developed based on research data of anticipated prominent strains. Each vaccine contains the prominent “A” and “B” strains most likely to circulate based on scientific research. A flu vaccine can minimize flu symptoms’ severity and lessen the likelihood of complications for both mom and her unborn baby.
  • The flu vaccine protects expectant moms during and after pregnancy, up to six months after vaccination. It is advised pregnant women receive the flu vaccine shot rather than the nasal spray form. The flu vaccination, given via injection in the arm, may be safely administered during any trimester of pregnancy.
  • When expectant moms get the flu vaccine, their bodies produce antibodies which protect the baby throughout pregnancy and for several months after birth. This protection for babies is especially critical as infants less than six months old are the population at greatest risk of experiencing flu complications, including death, because they cannot directly receive the flu vaccine.
  • Women and babies six months or older should get a yearly flu vaccine. Antibodies produced from the flu vaccine decline over time, requiring new vaccinations during each subsequent flu season. Prominent flu strains evolve and change each year, requiring new vaccines to be developed and administered yearly to maximize protection against current flu viruses.

Check with your Capital Women’s Care doctor before you get a flu vaccine if you had a reaction from a previous flu vaccine. He or she will provide you with information on how you can protect yourself without the vaccine.

Tips for Additional Flu Protection

The flu vaccine offers the best protection available, but there are other precautions you can take to minimize your flu risk in addition to getting the vaccine. These steps include:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water -- often and thoroughly.
  • Use an alcohol-based sanitizer on hands if you don’t have access to soap and water.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and/or mouth.
  • Avoid crowds when flu is most prevalent in your community.
  • Commit to daily wellness habits --get plenty of rest, commit to regular exercise, drink a lot of fluid, eat a healthy diet and manage stress effectively.
  • You can also help prevent spreading the flu by staying home if you do become sick.

What to Do if You Get the Flu

If you get sick with flu-like symptoms, immediately call your doctor. Prescription antiviral drugs that can treat flu illness and prevent serious flu complications are available and recommended by the CDC for pregnant women, children, and other high-risk populations.  

Antiviral drugs work best when treatment is started within two days of contracting the flu, but starting them later can still be helpful, especially if you are very sick or are at high risk of serious flu complications. Make sure to follow your doctor’s instructions for taking these prescribed medications.

Plenty of rest and drinking a lot of clear liquids (water, hot tea, clear broth) are also vital components in controlling flu symptoms.

The Importance of Immediate Family and Friends Getting a Flu Shot

Immediate family and friends of pregnant moms and infants should also get yearly flu vaccines to not only safeguard their own health and minimize the spread of seasonal flu within their communities, but to add importantinsular levels of flu protection for the expectant moms and infants within their social and familial circles.

If your close family and friends are vaccinated against the flu, you, your baby, and your young children will be less likely to get the flu and therefore less likely to spread it.

With flu activity increasing while family and friends plan holiday gatherings, now is a great time to get a flu vaccine. Talk to your Capital Women’s Care team  about getting the flu vaccine and the best way to safeguard you and your unborn baby’s health during flu season.

Our Mission

The providers of Capital Women's Care seek the highest quality medical and ethical standard in an environment that nurtures the spirit of caring for every woman.


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