Immunisation is free for pregnant women

Influenza immunisation is strongly recommended for women who will be (or intend to be) pregnant during autumn and winter (1 April to 31 December each year).

Places to get immunised in 2020:

  • To find a doctor in your area click here.
  • Click on this link (list for vaccinating pharmacies is currently being updated) for a list of pharmacies offering flu vaccinations this year

Click on the link to open the  Immunise during pregnancy brochure.

You are at risk of influenza while pregnant

Influenza is not a cold. It can be a dangerous illness that poses a serious risk to your life and that of your unborn baby. There are a number of influenza related complications that can affect baby's development in the womb and can even lead to miscarriage or premature birth.

A range of physical changes during pregnancy (such as changes in immunity) increase a pregnant woman's risk of serious influenza complications. New Zealand research shows that pregnant women are nearly 5 times more likely to be hospitalised with influenza than women who are not pregnant.

Influenza is dangerous

There are a number of factors that make influenza dangerous to an unborn baby. The influenza virus does not actually cross the placenta to infect your baby, the danger comes from your own body as it fights the illness.

Danger to mum

  • Being pregnant and getting influenza means you are at increased risk of pneumonia
  • You are nearly five times more likely to be admitted to hospital with influenza compared to a non-pregnant woman

Danger to baby

Influenza during pregnancy increases the risks of:

  • Premature birth
  • Low birth weight
  • Miscarriage/stillbirth
  • Birth defects

Influenza immunisation will not harm your unborn baby

It may be reassuring to know that your influenza vaccine does not cross the placenta into your baby. The vaccine simply stimulates your own immune system to make circulating protective cells (antibodies) that can fight off the virus.

The good news is that your antibodies are also passed on to your baby so they are born with some protection against influenza for the first few months of life. Newborns and young infants have higher rates of influenza and hospitalisation than other children, so the protection they receive from you in the womb could make all the difference.

Influenza survivor Kim Neho – Influenza and pregnant women

Kim Neho watches her seven-month-old twins rolling around the floor trying to sit upright in their Kaitaia home and, as she does every day, counts her lucky stars she is still around to witness these milestone moments.

Rewind seven months and she was lying in a coma at death’s door, her body ravaged by influenza and a range of other complications, surrounded by her husband, three kids and, nuzzling into their mother, her newborn twins, who she was yet to meet (Courtesy of the Northland District Health Board - Media Release)

Proven safety record for pregnant women

The influenza vaccine has been used for many years for pregnant women with no safety concerns and can be given during any trimester of pregnancy. There is no increased risk of reactions to the vaccine for pregnant women or their unborn babies.

Questions and answers for pregnant women

When is the best time to be immunised?

It is possible to come in contact with influenza viruses all year round. However, the likelihood of influenza viruses circulating in the community significantly increases during winter. Influenza immunisation can be given at any time during pregnancy. It is preferable to be immunised as soon as the vaccine is available from 1 April, well before the start of winter.  

It is recommended that women who become pregnant after winter and have not received the current influenza vaccination are offered influenza vaccination up to and including 31 December.

Why is an influenza vaccination recommended every year?
Yearly immunisation is recommended for two reasons: first, because protection from the previous immunisation lessens over time; and second, because the circulating influenza viruses can change and the strains in the vaccine usually change each year in response to the changing virus pattern.

Women who are pregnant across two influenza seasons are recommended to have an influenza immunisation in both of the seasons. In addition to the reasons explained above, a pregnant woman’s risk from influenza also increases as pregnancy progresses. 

Can I have my free influenza and whooping cough booster immunisations at the same visit?
If you are in your second or third trimester, the influenza vaccine and whooping cough booster vaccine (Tdap) can be administered at the same visit. Both immunisations are free for pregnant women.

I am pregnant and want an influenza immunisation but I have a cold, should I still have it?

If you don’t have a high fever and are only experiencing a cold, runny nose or sniffles, it’s okay to receive the immunisation. However, if you are very unwell, wait until you are better. If in doubt, check with your Lead Maternity Carer, doctor, nurse or pharmacist.

I have a history of miscarriage. Is it OK to have an influenza immunisation?
Yes. Influenza immunisation does not increase the risk of miscarriage. However, catching influenza can increase the risk.

Is the influenza vaccine a live vaccine?
No. The influenza vaccine used in New Zealand does not contain any live viruses. The influenza viruses are completely inactivated and cannot cause influenza.

Are there any preservatives in the influenza vaccine, e.g. thiomersal?
No. The vaccine used in New Zealand is preservative free.

I am pregnant and work with children, should I have an influenza immunisation?
Yes. Influenza infection rates are generally highest in children, and they are a major source of the spread of influenza. The influenza virus may be found in respiratory secretions (breathing, coughing and sneezing) for two weeks or longer in children. Your risk of exposure to the influenza virus is higher and, as you are pregnant, so is your risk of influenza disease and serious complications.

It is also important for all people working with children, and especially young babies, to be immunised against influenza to reduce the risk of passing influenza onto them. 

I have just had my baby, can I have an influenza immunisation? Will it protect my baby if I am breastfeeding?
It is safe for a breastfeeding woman to have the influenza immunisation. Breastfeeding may offer some initial protection to your baby. However, babies will have more protection if their mother is immunised during pregnancy.

Vaccination and breastfeeding

The influenza vaccine can be given to a breastfeeding woman. Protecting the mother can help prevent her becoming infected and transmitting influenza to her baby. Breastfeeding may offer some protection against influenza.

Maternal influenza immunisation protects two high-risk groups with one vaccine dose – pregnant women and their babies.

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