Getting a flu vaccine when you are pregnant protects two high-risk people with one vaccine dose – you and your baby. Your antibodies are shared with your baby so that when they are born they have some protection against flu for the first few months of life. Newborns and young infants are more likely to end up in hospital with flu than older children, so the protection they receive from you in the womb could make all the difference. A pregnant woman’s risk from flu increases further later in pregnancy.
The flu vaccine can be given at any time during pregnancy. It is best to be immunised as soon as the vaccine is available, well before the start of winter. It is available until the end of the year. If you’re still pregnant in April of next year, you should also receive that year’s flu vaccine.
If you are in your second or third trimester, you can get the flu vaccine and whooping cough booster vaccine (Tdap) at the same visit. Both immunisations are free for pregnant women.
The flu vaccine has been safely used by pregnant women for many years. Flu immunisation does not increase the risk of miscarriage. However, catching flu can increase the risk.
Your flu vaccine does not cross the placenta into your baby. The vaccine simply helps your own immune system to make protective proteins (antibodies) that can fight off the virus.
There is no increased risk of reactions to the vaccine for pregnant women or their unborn babies.
The flu vaccine can be given to a breastfeeding woman. Protecting the mother can help prevent her becoming infected and transmitting flu to her baby. Breastfeeding may offer some protection against flu however, babies will have more protection if their mother is immunised during pregnancy.
Danger of flu to mum and baby
You can catch flu at any time of the year. However, during the winter, there is a greater likelihood of flu viruses being widespread in the community.
There are several factors that make flu dangerous to an unborn baby. The flu virus does not actually cross the placenta to infect your baby, the danger comes from your own body as it fights the illness
Flu is not a cold. It can seriously harm your health and that of your unborn baby. There are several flu-related complications that can affect baby's development in the womb and can even lead to miscarriage or premature birth.
Physical changes, such as changes in the immune system and difficulty in taking deep breaths, increase a pregnant woman's risk of serious flu complications. New Zealand research shows that pregnant women are nearly five times more likely to be hospitalised with flu than women who are not pregnant.
Being pregnant and getting flu means you are:
- at increased risk of pneumonia
- nearly five times more likely to be admitted to hospital with flu compared to a non-pregnant woman
Flu increases the risk of pregnancy complications, including:
- premature birth
- low birthweight
- birth defects.