Dr. Morice: Should I Get the Flu Vaccine While Pregnant?

This year’s flu epidemic has now been confirmed and is active in 40 states. The flu epidemic has not yet been deemed larger or more deadly than previous years yet, but it is of special concern because the strain that is infecting most people is the H1N1.


The H1N1 strain has been known to be dangerous to young adults in addition to the usual high-risk populations such as those who are very young, elderly, pregnant, or immunocompromised. This strain has been known to make even healthy adults very sick. Pregnancy can weaken your immune system and puts extra stress on your heart and lungs, lowering your body’s ability to fight the virus.

If you contract the flu while pregnant, you are at risk of becoming severely ill. Pregnant women are more likely than other women to require hospitalization and suffer severe complications, even death, if they contract the flu. Having the flu during pregnancy also increases risk of miscarriage, preterm labor, and low birth weight. Therefore, a flu vaccination when pregnant is critical to you and your baby’s health.

Is the flu vaccine safe during pregnancy?

The CDC recommends that all pregnant women get the flu vaccination during flu season, which runs from early October to late March. Although previously it was believed that you shouldn’t get the vaccination in your first trimester, it has now been deemed safe for pregnant women during all trimesters. Studies have been done with several thousands of women, and the flu vaccine has not been found to have any adverse effects on a baby’s health. Receiving the flu vaccine when pregnant can actually help your baby ward off the flu during their first 6 months of life. When the mother develops flu antibodies after vaccination, those are passed to the baby during pregnancy.

Is the flu vaccine safe while I’m breastfeeding?

Yes, the CDC recommends women who are breastfeeding to be vaccinated. Because a baby cannot be vaccinated until bahe or she is 6 months old, getting yourself vaccinated will prevent you from infecting your baby. It is also a good idea for your family and anyone else who comes into contact with your baby regularly, such as a nanny or babysitter, to get vaccinated as well.

Should I get the flu shot injection or the nasal spray?

Pregnant women are advised to get the injection, not the nasal spray. The nasal spray contains a weakened but alive virus. Administering a live virus into someone with a weakened immune system is not a good idea, however, so the injection is a better option. The injection does typically involve some proteins from eggs, however, so if you have an egg sensitivity be sure to discuss this with your doctor. Patients with egg sensitivities are typically fine with the injection, but it may require special precautions.

How long after I get the vaccine am I protected?

It takes about 2 weeks after vaccination for your body to develop the necessary antibodies to protect against the flu.

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