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Healthy Outlook

Pregnancy is a Great Time to get a Flu Shot

By Dr. Nishant Shah

Friday, November 22, 2013

Any mom can tell you that pregnancy is hard on the body. Carrying a baby puts additional strain on her lungs and heart, and can also affect the immune system.

Flu season is no time to gamble with your health, especially if you’re expecting.

From October to March, I would recommend flu shots for all adults, but especially if you’re pregnant. I would add that this vaccination is another small but important thing you can do to help ensure that your baby is born safe and healthy, just like eating well and getting proper exercise.

Pregnant women work hard. Their bodies are essentially taking care of two people at once, so it’s no surprise that they are more susceptible to complications from catching the flu. When they do get the flu, they have a higher-than-normal chance of getting extremely sick, which can lead to pregnancy complications. Studies have linked flu illness during pregnancy to an increased risk of miscarriage, low birth weight and premature birth.

Getting sick while pregnant does not mean those things will happen to you. Most women deliver healthy babies. But even a healthy baby can benefit when mom gets a flu shot.

The best way to protect your child from the flu is to get vaccinated before your baby is born. All infants are at increased risk of severe flu symptoms if they catch the disease, but babies can’t get flu vaccine until they are six months old. If you get a flu shot while pregnant, your body can develop antibodies that help you resist the virus, and those antibodies can pass through the placenta to help protect your child during the first six months of life.

I also recommend that everyone in the home get a flu shot before the baby arrives, to reduce the risk of passing on the flu to either baby or mom during this fragile time of life. Caring for a newborn is enough of a challenge without the flu, after all.

Moms who have already delivered can also protect their babies by receiving the flu vaccine, as the vaccine is completely safe with breastfeeding.

Flu vaccine comes in a variety of forms. If you are allergic to eggs, check with your doctor before receiving the shot, because many flu vaccines contain a tiny amount of egg protein. There are egg-free vaccines available, and your doctor can help find the right form of flu vaccine for you. If you had a severe reaction to a flu shot in the past, that’s also important to discuss with your doctor before receiving another flu vaccine.

Most expecting mothers hear a ton of advice about how to ensure a healthy pregnancy, often unsolicited. But getting the flu vaccine is a common-sense way to help contribute to the safety of you and your child. Please consider getting vaccinated today.

Flu vaccine is available through your health provider, as well as at pharmacies, grocery stores and community clinics. For more information about the disease, and where to get a flu shot, please visit

Healthy Outlook is written by the professional staff of Contra Costa Health Services, the county health department. Send questions to series coordinator Dr. David Pepper at For more health information, go to
About the Author

Dr. Shah practices family medicine at Contra Costa Regional Medical Center & Health Centers.