An average of more than 200,000 people in the United States are hospitalized each year from complications of influenza (the flu). Alarmingly, pregnant women are at increased risk for serious complications of the flu, including serious illness or even death. But if you’re pregnant, you might worry about everything that goes into your body, which includes the flu shot. To help put your mind at ease, here are the facts about the flu shot and pregnancy.
Is the flu shot safe during pregnancy?
Yes. Studies have shown that flu shots are not associated with adverse effects on pregnancy outcomes such as loss of pregnancy, preterm birth or birth defects.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has approved the use of the flu shot for pregnant women. This is because the flu shot contains an inactivated flu virus which is safe for mom and baby. However, the nasal spray flu vaccine, which contains live, weakened flu viruses, is not approved for pregnant women. So if you are pregnant, make sure you get a flu shot, not the nasal spray vaccine.
Because the best way to protect against the flu is to get vaccinated before flu season, the CDC recommends that pregnant women and women up to two weeks postpartum be vaccinated.
Getting a flu vaccine
The flu season in North America runs from October through May, although we never know exactly when the season will peak. Because of this, October is the best time to get a flu shot, but you can still get vaccinated any time during the flu season, if you have not been sick with the flu yet. If you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant during this year’s flu season, talk to your doctor in advance about getting a flu shot. It's important to note that, in some years, there is not always enough vaccine for everyone who needs one, especially early in the season. However, the CDC and state public health departments prioritize vaccinating pregnant women.
Once vaccinated, you are not likely to have serious problems. However, some minor side effects are common and include soreness, redness or swelling at the injection site; low-grade fever; and some muscle or joint aches. More serious complications, such as severe allergic reactions, may occur on rare occasions.
It is estimated that an average of one to two out of 1,000 hospitalizations could be prevented each year for pregnant women who get the flu vaccine.