Preventing flu when you’re pregnant is an essential element of prenatal care, and the best way to do that is to get your annual flu shot. Seasonal influenza is a virus that spreads easily and is most common in the US between October and May, often peaking in February.
It is especially important for pregnant women to be vaccinated because they can become sick enough from the flu that it can lead to severe lung infections requiring hospitalization and preterm delivery. I offer flu shots to all my pregnant patients and those who are considering becoming pregnant. In fact, ACOG and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that everyone older than six months of age receive the flu vaccine every year.
It’s important that pregnant women get the flu shot, not the nose spray version of the vaccine, which contains a live attenuated virus. The flu shot is safe for pregnant women and their unborn child during any trimester; it is also safe after delivery and for breastfeeding women. Flu vaccination will not only protect new mothers but can provide protection to their babies in the first six months of their life. Family members, caregivers, and others who will be around the baby should also be vaccinated.
Ob-gyns should offer the flu shot to all their pregnant patients. During pregnancy, the flu shot is the best protection there is against serious illness from seasonal influenza.
The flu vaccine is now widely available at doctors’ offices, clinics, pharmacies, and health departments. To find a vaccination location near you, see this HealthMap Vaccine Finder.
For more information about the flu vaccine, other vaccine-preventable diseases, and the immunization needs of special populations, visit ACOG’s Immunization for Women website.
Laura E. Riley, MD, is chair of The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ Immunization Expert Work Group. Dr. Riley is director of Labor and Delivery at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.