If you are pregnant you should get the flu vaccine because you are at increased risk of severe complications from flu. The vaccine protects you during pregnancy.
You can get the flu vaccine at any stage of pregnancy. You should get it as early as possible in your pregnancy. The flu season usually occurs between September and April. If you are pregnant through two flu seasons, two vaccines, one in each season, may be necessary.
Impact of flu during pregnancy
Pregnant women are more likely to get complications due to changes in their heart and lung function. They are also more likely to be admitted to hospital and the Intensive Care Unit.
Getting flu in pregnancy may also lead to premature birth, lower birth weight and even stillbirth. There is evidence that the vaccine reduces the rate of stillbirth by over 50%. Infants under the age of 6 months have the highest rate of hospitalisation and death from influenza.
How safe is the flu vaccine in pregnancy?
The flu vaccine has been given to millions of pregnant women. It has been given to pregnant women for almost 60 years in the US. Reactions are generally mild and serious side effects are very rare.
Will my baby be protected if I get the flu vaccine?
Getting the flu vaccine during pregnancy can protect your baby in the womb and for up to the first six months of life. It can prevent you getting flu and passing it on to your baby.
When should I get vaccinated?
If you are already pregnant the vaccine should be given in September/October each year and is available from your family doctor or pharmacist. In the Northern Hemisphere the flu season lasts from October to the end of April. Women who become pregnant at any stage during the flu season should get the flu vaccine.
If you are pregnant through two flu seasons, two flu vaccines, one in each season, may be needed.
Can the flu vaccine be given at the same time as the whooping cough (Tdap) vaccine during pregnancy?
Yes. You can have flu and whooping cough (Tdap) vaccines at the same time. The vaccines are usually given in different arms.
I was pregnant at the end of the last season and received seasonal flu vaccine then. I have not yet delivered my baby so should I receive seasonal flu vaccine now?
Yes. You should have the seasonal flu vaccine now to give you immunity from the flu strains expected this winter.
What to expect after the flu vaccine
The most common side effects are mild and include soreness, redness or swelling where the injection was given. Headache, fever, aches and tiredness may occur. You may have mild sweating and shivering as your immune system responds to the vaccine. This is not flu and will pass in a day or so.
What should I do if I do not feel well after the flu vaccine?
Take paracetamol if you have a temperature after the flu vaccine. Paracetamol is safe during pregnancy and it is important for you and your baby to avoid fever.
Do not take aspirin or ibuprofen unless advised by your obstetrician.
If you are unwell after the vaccine it could be for some other reason. Don't assume it's due to the vaccine. Seek medical advice if needed.
Please make and appointment now to have the flu vaccine. Protect yourself and protect your baby. You should also talk to your GP about whooping cough vaccine. Both vaccines can be given on the same day.