Flu vaccines in Pregnancy

Why should people get vaccinated against the flu?
Influenza is a serious disease that can lead to hospitalization and sometimes even death. Every flu season is different, and influenza infection can affect people differently, but millions of people get the flu every year, hundreds of thousands of people are hospitalized and thousands of people die from flu-related causes every year.

  • Even healthy people can get very sick from the flu and spread it to others.
  • During flu season (can begin as early as October and last as late as May), flu viruses circulate at higher levels in the U.S. population.
  • An annual seasonal flu vaccine is the best way to reduce your risk of getting sick with seasonal flu and spreading it to others.
  • When more people get vaccinated against the flu, less flu can spread through that community.

How do flu vaccines work?

  • Flu vaccines cause antibodies to develop in the body about two weeks after vaccination. These antibodies provide protection against infection with the viruses that are in the vaccine.
  • The seasonal flu vaccine protects against the influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming season.
  • Traditional flu vaccines (called “trivalent” vaccines) are made to protect against three flu viruses
    • An influenza A (H1N1) virus, an influenza A (H3N2) virus, and an influenza B virus.
  • There is also flu vaccines made to protect against four flu viruses (called “quadrivalent” vaccines)
    • These vaccines protect against the same viruses as the trivalent vaccine and an additional B virus.

How dangerous is the influenza (the flu) in pregnant women?
Pregnant women who get the flu can become much sicker than women who get the flu when they are not pregnant. Studies have shown that pregnant women with a respiratory illness from the flu have more medical visits, more hospitalizations, and longer hospital stays

I am pregnant. Should I get the influenza vaccine (flu shot)?

  • Flu shots are an effective and safe way to protect you and your fetus from serious illness and complications of the flu.
  • Pregnant women and their fetuses are at an increased risk of serious complications from the flu.
  • The flu shot given during pregnancy helps protect infants younger than 6 months who are too young to get the flu vaccine and have no other way to getting flu antibodies.
  • The flu shot has been given to millions of pregnant women for many years.
  • Pregnant women can get the flu shot at any point during the flu season (typically October to May).

During which trimester is it safe to have a flu shot?
The flu shot can be given at any time during pregnancy. Pregnant women are advised to get the shot as soon as possible when it becomes available and to speak to their health care providers about being immunized.

Which flu vaccine should pregnant women get?
Pregnant women should get the inactivated influenza vaccine that is given with a needle, usually in the arm.
Will the flu shot give me the flu?
No. You cannot get the flu from receiving the flu shot.
I got the flu shot, why did I still get sick?

  • The flu shot does not protect against all strains of the flu virus. Although experts do their best to identify the virus strains that are most likely to cause illness the following season, sometimes additional strains end up circulating and causing illness.
  • The flu shot does not protect against the common cold, so you may get a cold even though you received the flu shot.
  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, these risks are outweighed by the risks of influenza, which is a serious illness that can incapacitate you or your baby for weeks.

What are some side effects from getting the flu vaccine?
The side effects are mild and short-lasting, especially when compared to symptoms of bad case of flu. The viruses in the flu shot are killed (inactivated), so you cannot get the flu from a flu shot.

Some minor side effects that may occur are:

  • Soreness, redness, or swelling where the shot was given
  • Fever (low grade)
  • Body aches

Are preservatives in flu vaccines safe for my baby?

  • Thimerosal is a mercury-containing preservative used in very small amounts in some flu vaccines.
  • There is no scientific evidence that thimerosal causes problems for pregnant women or children born to women who received thimerosal-containing vaccines during pregnancy.
  • Thimerosal-free types of the vaccine are also available, and pregnant women can get the flu shot with or without the preservative.

What else can I do to keep my baby healthy and free of the flu?

  • Getting your flu shot while you are pregnant is the most important step in protecting yourself and your baby against the flu.
  • After birth, breastfeeding your baby and making sure other family members and caregivers get the flu vaccine will further protect your baby.

Is it safe to get the flu shot at my local pharmacy?
Pharmacies are well equipped to give immunizations. Vaccinations are available at most major pharmacies. This is a good option if your health care provider does not offer the flu vaccine in his or her office. Be sure to let your obstetrician-gynecologist know when you have gotten the flu shot so that your medical record can be updated.

What should I do if I think I have the flu?
Although the flu shot is the most effective way to prevent the flu, there is a chance you still might get the flu.

  • If you think you have flu symptoms, such as a fever or chills and exhaustion, contact your health care provider right away. Be sure to tell them that you are pregnant.
  • If you have severe symptoms, such as a fever higher than 100.0oF along with trouble breathing, dizziness when standing, or pain in your chest, contact your doctor and seek immediate medical attention.

Can I get the tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (Tdap) shot and flu shot at the same time?
Yes. You can get these two vaccines, Tdap and the flu shot, in the same visit. Receiving theses vaccinations at the same time is safe and effective.


  1. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
  2. Immunization for Women: Influenza Overview for Patients www.immunizationforwomen.org
  3. Center for Disease Control and Prevention www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/vaccine/pregnant.htm</li>

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