Influenza (flu) is more likely to cause severe illness in pregnant women than in women of reproductive age who are not pregnant. Changes in the immune system, heart, and lungs during pregnancy make pregnant women (and women up to two weeks postpartum) more prone to severe illness from flu, including illness resulting in hospitalization. Flu also may be harmful for a pregnant woman’s developing baby. A common flu symptom is fever, which may be associated with neural tube defects and other adverse outcomes for a developing baby. Getting vaccinated also can help protect a baby after birth from flu. (Mom passes antibodies onto the developing baby during her pregnancy.)
A Flu Vaccine is the Best Protection Against Flu
Getting an influenza (flu) vaccine is the first and most important step in protecting against flu. Pregnant women should get a flu shot and not the nasal spray flu vaccine. Flu shots given during pregnancy help protect both the mother and her baby from flu. Vaccination has been shown to reduce the risk of flu-associated acute respiratory infection in pregnant women by up to one-half. A 2018 study showed that getting a flu shot reduced a pregnant woman’s risk of being hospitalized with flu by an average of 40 percent. Pregnant women who get a flu vaccine also are helping to protect their babies from flu illness for the first several months after their birth, when they are too young to get vaccinated. A list of recent studies on the benefits of flu vaccination for pregnant women is available.
Other Preventative Actions
In addition to getting a flu shot, pregnant women should take the same everyday preventive actions CDC recommends of everyone, including avoiding people who are sick, covering coughs, and washing hands often. In addition, breastfeeding also has many benefits, including helping to protect infants from infections like flu.