Is it safe to get a flu shot during pregnancy?
Answer From Yvonne Butler Tobah, 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 Obstetricians and Gynecologists 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. The flu is more likely to cause severe illness in pregnant women than in women who are not pregnant. Research has shown that getting a flu shot decreases a pregnant woman's risk of being hospitalized by an average of 40%.
- Prevent potential fetal health problems due to the flu. Having a fever caused by the flu early in pregnancy might increase the risk of fetal birth defects.
- Protect your baby after birth. Infants are at increased risk of severe flu symptoms, but the flu vaccine can't be given until a baby is 6 months old. If you have a flu shot during pregnancy, the antibodies you develop will pass through the placenta and, if you're breast-feeding, breast milk. These antibodies help protect your baby from the flu after birth.
The flu shot won't protect you from coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). But getting a flu vaccine is especially important this season because the flu and the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cause similar common signs and symptoms. Flu vaccination could reduce symptoms that might be confused with those caused by COVID-19. Preventing the flu and reducing the severity of flu illness and hospitalizations could also lessen the stress on the health care system.
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.
If you have concerns about the flu shot during pregnancy, talk to your doctor.
Sept. 25, 2020
Yvonne Butler Tobah, M.D.
See more Expert Answers
- Flu & pregnant women. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/vaccine/pregnant.htm. Accessed Aug. 21, 2020.
- Shakib JH, et al. Influenza in infants born to women vaccinated during pregnancy. Pediatrics. 2016;137:1.
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Committee Opinion No. 732: Influenza vaccination during pregnancy. Obstetrics & Gynecology. 2018; doi: 10.1097/AOG.0000000000002586.
- Frequently asked influenza (flu) questions: 2020-2021 season. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/season/faq-flu-season-2020-2021.htm. Accessed Aug. 5, 2020.
- Vaccine effectiveness — How well does the flu vaccine work? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/vaccineeffect.htm. Accessed Aug. 5, 2020.
- Grohskopf LA, et al. Prevention and control of seasonal influenza with vaccines: Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices — United States, 2020-21 influenza season. MMWR Recommendations and Reports. 2020; doi: 10.15585/mmwr.rr6908a1.