Pregnant or a New Mom? The Flu Matters

An article from the UVM Health Network 2019 Flu Education series

With Brianne Jeror, NP, University of Vermont Health Network
Alice Hyde Medical Center, Primary Care

Another flu season is right around the corner. A seasonal flu vaccine is the best way to protect against it and any potentially serious complications.

Immunity can take up to two weeks to develop after getting the vaccine, so getting your flu shot and helping to protect your friends, family and loved ones from seasonal influenza is everyone’s responsibility.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine every year, with rare exceptions. But for some groups, seasonal influenza is particularly dangerous.

Flu Vaccine and Pregnancy: A Misconception

A common misconception among many patients is that seasonal flu vaccines are not appropriate for pregnant women. This is not true, and it is very important for pregnant women to get a flu vaccine, so they protect both themselves and their unborn child.

Increased risk during pregnancy and postpartum

Changes is the immune system, heart and lungs of women during pregnancy make pregnant women — as well as women up to two weeks postpartum — more prone to severe complications from seasonal flu. Influenza can also pose a serious risk to a developing baby. One common flu symptom, fever, may be associated with neural tube defects and other adverse outcomes for unborn children.

Protecting you and your baby from flu

There is a large body of scientific evidence that shows getting a flu vaccine is safe for pregnant women and their babies, and women should feel safe and confident being vaccinated at any time during their pregnancy, as well as when they are actively breastfeeding. While it is safe for pregnant women to receive the regular flu vaccine, a preservative-free version is also available.

There is also a growing body of evidence on vaccination’s benefits for pregnant women. A 2018 study found that getting a flu vaccine reduced pregnant women’s risk of flu-related hospitalization by an average of 40 percent. Because a mother also passes antibodies on to her child during her pregnancy, pregnant women who get a flu vaccine also help protect their babies during the first months after they are born, when they are too young to be vaccinated.

Be sure to contact your primary care provider to discuss which type of flu vaccination is right for you and learn more about how you can best protect yourself and those around you from seasonal influenza.