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Woman And Infants

Web-Exclusive Q&A: Flu Shots During Pregnancy

In this web-exclusive Q&A, Dr. Brenna Hughes from the Women & Infants' Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine answers questions about getting a flu shot while pregnant.

Should a pregnant woman get the flu shot this season? Why?
Absolutely. The flu shot is highly recommended for pregnant women. It is thought that women get more ill from the flu during pregnancy than at other times in their lives. Flu can cause serious complications that could lead to admission to an intensive care unit or even death. The flu shot decreases these risks from the flu.

When should a pregnant woman get the flu shot?
It is now recommended that pregnant women receive the flu shot in any trimester. They should receive it as soon as it becomes available.

What are the possible side effects from the shot? Are they different for pregnant women?
Commonly reported side effects include mild body aches, low-grade fever and soreness at the injection site. The only side effect that is proven to increase in pregnant women is sore arm. The flu shot does not cause the flu. People who receive the shot may still get the flu but are far less likely to suffer complications from the flu than those who do not receive the vaccine.

Is the flu nasal spray a better option?
Not during pregnancy. The flu nasal spray contains a live attenuated virus rather than the inactivated virus. Its safety has not been studied in pregnancy and is not recommended for pregnant women.

Are pregnant women more or less likely to get the flu? Will it feel worse because of the pregnancy?
Pregnant women are probably not more likely than other people to get the flu but they are more likely to become seriously ill from the flu.

Will the injection of virus affect the fetus?
The flu shot has been extensively studied in pregnancy and there have been no fetal effects noted.  In fact, there is some research showing that the flu shot may actually decrease the risk of miscarriage.

Will the immunization help the baby after birth?
Immunization during pregnancy may protect the baby immediately after birth. You should discuss flu shots for infants with your pediatrician.

Should others in the house also get a flu shot?
Yes, any person living with someone who is considered high risk for complications of the flu, including pregnant women, should receive the shot.

Can a breastfeeding mother get a flu shot?
Yes, breastfeeding mothers should receive the flu shot.

Who should not get the flu shot?
People who have an anaphylactic or severe allergy to eggs or to components of the flu vaccine should not receive the shot.

For more information on flu shots during pregnancy or while breastfeeding, please consult with your obstetrician or call the Women & Infants' Warm Line at 800-711-7011.

In order to provide answers to your most pressing health care questions, the clinicians at Women & Infants participate in an ongoing series of web-exclusive interviews.

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