A Flu Vaccine Protects Mom, Fetus, and Infant

Updated August 30, 2023
Woman getting bandaid placed after flu vaccination

If you’re pregnant or plan to be, it’s important to get a flu vaccine every fall. According to Duke perinatologist Geeta Swamy, MD, the annual immunization offers three layers of protection for you, your fetus, and your baby. Flu season typically lasts from October through April.

Protecting You and Your Child

Pregnant people aren’t at higher risk for getting the flu, but they are more likely to suffer serious complications because of it. According to Dr. Swamy, pregnant people have a greater risk of being hospitalized and have higher rates of pneumonia and respiratory complications because of the flu. Protect yourself by getting vaccinated against the flu.

Protecting yourself from getting the flu by getting vaccinated is also important because it protects your fetus. Getting the flu during pregnancy puts the developing fetus at risk for complications such as preterm delivery and low birth weight. "Even if mom is fine, evidence suggests influenza exposure can lead to medical problems that include psychiatric disorders in the baby’s future," explained Dr. Swamy, a nationally recognized expert on immunizations during pregnancy.

Getting vaccinated during pregnancy also transfers antibodies against the flu to your fetus. This reduces your infant’s risk of contracting the flu during the first six months of life. The Centers for Disease Control recommends that babies six months and older be vaccinated against the flu.

Stay Safe, Healthy

Talk with your prenatal care provider if you have questions about getting your flu vaccination, as well as other vaccinations that are safe and recommended during pregnancy. They include vaccinations against COVID-19 and pertussis (Tdap), also known as “whooping cough.” It’s safe to receive all three vaccines, even on the same day.

Since no immunization is perfect, pregnant people who’ve been vaccinated against the flu should still take precautions. If you think you’ve been exposed to the flu, your doctor can offer prophylactic treatment with anti-viral medications. If you experience flu-like symptoms, including severe headache, fatigue, fever, and body aches, call your doctor. You can also visit a Duke Urgent Care location.

“It’s best to be treated in the first 48 hours,” said Dr. Swamy. “Along with a flu vaccine, it’s the best line of defense to protect you and your child.”

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