Pregnancy and Influenza

Women who are pregnant and their unborn child are both at increased risk for complications due to influenza. This is due to changes in the immune system, heart and lungs during pregnancy. These changes place pregnant women at risk for complications, hospitalization and even death due to influenza. The unborn child is also at risk for numerous medical problems.

The first step in treatment is always prevention. Everyone six months of age and older should be immunized every year against influenza. Vaccination is the best way to protect you and your unborn baby from the harmful effects of influenza. It is safe for pregnant women to be immunized with the inactivated influenza vaccine during any trimester. It is not recommended for pregnant women to receive the live attenuated influenza vaccine which is also called LAIV. This vaccine is administered via nasal spray.

Receiving the influenza vaccine during your pregnancy decreases the risk your new infant will come down with influenza during the first six months of life. This is especially important since your child cannot receive an influenza vaccine until six months of age. If you are pregnant and you come down with influenza you also place your child at risk for premature delivery or being small for gestational age.

The flu shot is recommended during pregnancy by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. There is a long record of safety for this immunization being given safely and effectively to pregnant women. Millions of pregnant women have been immunized and there is no evidence of harm to the pregnant woman or their baby.

If you are pregnant and come down with influenza you should receive antiviral treatment as soon as possible. You should not wait for a confirmation test. If your doctor suspects you have influenza that suspicion is enough to begin treatment. It is important for treatment to begin within 48 hours of onset of symptoms. This is why it is important for you to see your doctor early in your illness. There is also proven benefits to beginning treatment after this 48 hour period. The medication that is prescribes is called oseltamivir and it has been proven to be safe for your developing baby when given while you are pregnant.

Flu vaccine and antiviral treatment can make a difference for both you and your unborn child. Get vaccinated and seek medical attention if you become ill with influenza symptoms while you are pregnant.