Let’s be real: No one wants to get sick with flu. But for pregnant people, flu can be very serious.
Yes, even if you are generally healthy, pregnancy increases your risk of ending up hospitalized with flu.
But don’t worry, there are preventative actions you can take this flu season.
We’ve linked up with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to give you the right information to help tame flu for two.
And the first line of defense—a flu shot.
For pregnant people, getting a flu shot is the first and most important action you can take to protect both yourself and your baby from flu and its potentially serious complications.
So, take a deep breath, brave mama-to-be, we’ve got all the tips for fall and winter to keep you and your baby protected from flu.
In this article: 📝
- What are the dangers of flu?
- Should I get a flu shot while pregnant?
- When should I get a flu shot during pregnancy?
- What are the symptoms of flu?
- What to do if you get flu while pregnant?
- How can flu affect pregnancy?
- How to best prepare for flu season
What are the dangers of flu?
First, let’s understand what we’re up against.
Flu—or influenza—is a contagious respiratory illness that can infect the throat, nose, and lungs.
Flu can cause mild to severe illness.
Pregnant people are at higher risk of hospitalization from flu. If you have flu symptoms (e.g., fever, cough, body aches, headache), it’s important to call your health care provider right away.
Should I get a flu shot while pregnant?
CDC recommends that pregnant people get a flu shot during any trimester of pregnancy to reduce your risk of getting flu and having serious flu outcomes like hospitalization.
Data shows that a flu shot can reduce the risk of getting flu by up to 50% and also can reduce the risk of being hospitalized with the flu by an average of 40%.
Importantly, getting vaccinated during pregnancy also can protect your baby from flu for several months after birth when they’re too young to get a flu vaccine.
What are the benefits of getting a flu shot during pregnancy?
Getting a flu shot during pregnancy not only boosts your immune protection to flu, but it can reduce your baby’s risk of getting flu in their first few months when they’re too young to get vaccinated.
This is a big deal when you consider that babies younger than six months of age are at higher risk of being hospitalized for flu than other children.
The antibodies your body develops after getting a flu shot are passed on to your developing baby before birth, protecting them from flu for the first few months of their life.
Is it safe to get a flu shot while pregnant or breastfeeding?
Whether you’re nurturing your little one in the womb or while breastfeeding, the desire to safeguard them from any potential harm tops the list of priorities.
Flu shots have been given to millions of pregnant people for more than 50 years with an excellent safety record.
And a bonus of breastfeeding after getting a flu shot is passing on protective antibodies against the flu to your baby through your breast milk.
When should I get a flu shot during pregnancy?
The good news for expectant mothers is that you can get a flu shot during any trimester of your pregnancy.
As for the time of year, for most people, CDC recommends getting the flu vaccine during September or October but ideally by the end of October.
However, if you’re in your third trimester in July or August and the flu vaccine is available, CDC recommends getting the flu vaccine at that time to provide protection to both you and your baby ahead of the upcoming flu season.
Of course, you can always talk with your health care provider to tailor decisions to your unique health circumstances.
They can provide advice based on the most current research and your personal health situation.
What are the symptoms of flu?
Some people may also have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than in adults.
People may be infected with flu and have respiratory symptoms without a fever.
If you get flu symptoms, call your health care provider right away.
There are prescription flu antiviral medications that can treat flu illness and prevent serious flu complications, including an option that can be taken during pregnancy.
What to do if you get flu while pregnant?
Discovering that you have flu while pregnant can be unnerving.
Here are some proactive steps you can take to navigate flu during pregnancy:
- Contact your healthcare provider: Your first call should be to your medical provider. They can offer specific advice and may prescribe antiviral medications to prevent serious complications and help you recover more quickly.
- Antiviral treatment: Antiviral medications work by keeping flu viruses from multiplying in your body, lessening symptom severity, and speeding up your recovery in the process. They may also help prevent potential illness complications and work best when started early (within 48 hours of the start of symptoms).
- Monitor your symptoms: If you notice any worsening signs or symptoms like high fever, shortness of breath, or chest pain, seek medical attention immediately.
- Separate yourself: To protect others in your household, try to stay away from common areas and wash your hands frequently to prevent the spread of the virus.
How can flu affect pregnancy?
Flu is more likely to cause illness that results in hospitalization in pregnant people than in people of reproductive age who are not pregnant.
Flu also may increase the chances of some adverse pregnancy outcomes.
How to best prepare for flu season
The best way to reduce risk of flu and its potentially serious complications is to get a flu shot each year.
Still, there are several other actions you can take to help protect yourself and your little one as flu season approaches:
- Wash your hands frequently: Simple yet powerful. Carry around hand sanitizer for times when soap and water aren’t readily available. And encourage those around you to do the same to create a safe circle for you and your baby.
- Avoid close contact: Keeping a safe distance from others, especially those who are sick, is key—same if you’re unwell too. It’s a small step with a significant impact on protecting yourself and your baby.
- Stay home when sick unless it’s to get medical care: If you’re unwell, staying home is very important. It not only allows your body time to heal but also avoids passing on flu to others. The errands can wait. If you have to go out to get medical care, consider wearing a well-fitted mask to protect others.
- Cover your cough and sneeze: Those little droplets from coughing and sneezing can be vehicles for flu virus, so equip yourself with tissues and cover your mouth and nose when you need to cough or sneeze.
- Be mindful of touch: Refrain from touching your face. This can help prevent germs from finding their way into your system.
- Embrace good health practices: Get plenty of sleep and hydration, choose nutritious meals, and get gentle exercise as you are able.
- Increase ventilation at home: Open up windows and doors, use air filters, or turn on fans to stop virus particles from building up indoors.
Learn more about flu and pregnancy at cdc.gov/flu/highrisk/pregnant.htm.