Can I Get the Flu Shot While Pregnant?

Pregnant woman getting a flu shot

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Staying healthy is always important and when you get pregnant, making sure you don't get sick may become even more of a priority. You may worry about keeping your developing baby safe. Additionally, pregnancy already comes with plenty of discomforts, such as morning sickness and fatigue, so you may want to avoid getting sick on top of all that.

Getting an annual flu shot is the best way to prevent the seasonal flu, but you may wonder whether it's safe to get immunized while pregnant. In fact, flu shots are recommended for virtually all pregnant women.

"Flu vaccines...have been proven safe to get during pregnancy," explains Harvey Karp, MD, a respected pediatrician and best-selling author of "Happiest Baby on the Block" and "Happiest Toddler on the Block."

What Is a Flu Shot?

Influenza (flu) vaccination protects you against the seasonal flu, a contagious respiratory illness.

If you end up with the flu, you might experience symptoms like fever, cough, body aches, and a sore throat. The flu is never fun but it can be a lot more serious if you are very old, very young, have certain medical conditions, or are pregnant.

There are two main types of flu vaccine: an injection and a nasal spray. Making sure you get one of these each year is the best way to avoid becoming infected. Getting the shot annually is important because the virus changes and develops, so researchers update the vaccine composition.

In the United States, flu season begins around October and peaks between December and February, so you should schedule your vaccination as early as October 1.

Is It Safe to Get a Flu Shot During Pregnancy?

Getting a flu vaccine while pregnant is safe and recommended. In fact, pregnant people are one of the highest risk groups for developing serious complications from the flu.

"Influenza can be much more dangerous to pregnant women and their babies than to non-pregnant women," notes Dr. Karp. "So, if you're pregnant during flu season, your OB or midwife will advise getting a flu shot as early as possible."

Even though there is a nasal spray vaccine available, people who are pregnant should only get the injection and not the nasal spray.

Benefits of Getting a Flu Shot During Pregnancy

Getting a flu shot while pregnant helps protect both you and your baby. Vaccination reduces your risk of getting sick, which is higher and comes with more complications during pregnancy. Plus, antibodies pass to your baby and protect them from the flu during their early months of life.

Reduces Your Risk of Getting the Flu

A flu vaccine is the most effective way to avoid getting the flu and during pregnancy, avoiding getting sick is more important than ever. You may already be dealing with aches and pains, nausea, headaches, and extreme fatigue. The last thing you want to add to that is a viral infection!

But it's not just your comfort at risk if you get the flu while pregnant. Pregnant people are among the highest risk groups for developing serious complications, including death, from the flu, so reducing your chance of infection may even save your life.

Avoids Serious Complications

The flu can be minor but it can also be quite serious. "Influenza in pregnancy can lead to pneumonia and serious complications such as maternal death or premature birth," notes Kim Langdon, MD, an obstetrician and gynecologist with over 19 years of clinical experience.

If you are vaccinated against the flu, you are less likely to become infected, and if you do become infected, your risk of needing to be hospitalized is 40% lower.

Protects the Baby

Getting a flu shot while pregnant gives your baby antibodies that will protect them from the flu during the early months of life. This is very important because babies under 6 months of age cannot get flu shots.

Safety Precautions

Flu shots are recommended and generally considered safe during pregnancy. The following are a few things to be aware of when getting your flu shot while pregnant.

Skip the Nasal Spray

When scheduling your flu shot, make sure that the person giving it to you knows that you are pregnant. You should get an injection, not a nasal spray.

The nasal spray, officially called the live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV), contains live flu virus that has been weakened. A weakened virus should kick a person's immune response into gear in order to build immunity, but it's meant to be weak enough so that they won't get sick. But factors like being pregnant, being very young or very old, or being immunocompromised can make it possible to get the flu from the weakened virus.

The flu shot does not contain a live virus, so it's safe to get while pregnant.

Tell Your Doctor About Any Side Effects

It is possible to see some mild side effects for a short period of time after getting immunized. "You may experience soreness at the injection site, fever, chills, muscle aches, nausea, or headache," Dr. Langdon notes. Reach out to a healthcare provider with any concerns about your side effects.

In very rare cases, you may experience an allergic reaction. Call a healthcare provider or an emergency number immediately if you experience symptoms like breathing problems, dizziness, or a fast heartbeat.

It is also possible but extremely rare to experience Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) after getting a flu shot. GBS causes nerve damage, muscle weakness, and paralysis that usually lasts for a few weeks. The benefits of a flu shot outweigh this risk, however, because your chances of getting GBS from a flu shot are so much lower than your chances of getting the flu if not vaccinated.

A Word From Verywell

Getting a flu shot is safe and recommended while pregnant for almost everyone. Getting a flu shot while pregnant also offers your baby protection during the first few months of their life.

People who are pregnant should get their flu vaccine via an injection, not the nasal spray. Always reach out to a healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns about getting a flu shot during pregnancy.

8 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Elisa Cinelli
Elisa is a well-known parenting writer who is passionate about providing research-based content to help parents make the best decisions for their families. She has written for well-known sites including POPSUGAR and Scary Mommy, among others.