Is it safe to get a flu shot during pregnancy?

Answers from James M. Steckelberg, M.D.

Yes, it's safe to get a flu shot during pregnancy. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommend that all women who are pregnant during flu season get a flu shot, regardless of their trimester.

A flu shot during pregnancy can help:

  • Prevent the flu and maternal complications. Pregnancy affects your immune system, which makes it slightly easier for you to get sick. Pregnant women who become ill from an infection might have a harder time recovering and might have more complications. Getting the flu during pregnancy also increases your risk of developing pneumonia, other respiratory illnesses and becoming hospitalized. A flu shot will decrease your risk of getting the flu during your pregnancy.
  • Prevent potential pregnancy problems due to the flu. Flu during pregnancy seems to increase the risk of miscarriage, premature birth and low birth weight.
  • Protect your baby after birth. Infants are at increased risk of severe flu symptoms, but childhood flu vaccines can't begin until a baby is 6 months old. If you have a flu shot during pregnancy, the antibodies you develop will pass through the placenta to help protect your baby from the flu after birth.

When you get vaccinated, request the flu shot — not the nasal spray vaccine. The flu shot is made from an inactivated virus, so it's safe for both mother and baby during any stage of pregnancy. The nasal spray vaccine isn't recommended for use in pregnant women.

While all vaccines carry some risk of adverse effects, such as an allergic reaction, no research has shown an increased risk of complications associated with the flu shot for pregnant women. Women can get the flu shot at any time during pregnancy. There also is no evidence that adverse effects occur in the children of women who receive vaccines with the mercury-based preservative thimerosal during pregnancy. However, it's possible to get a flu shot that doesn't contain thimerosal. Talk to your doctor if you're concerned.

Oct. 04, 2016