A pregnant woman in white is holding a purple flower by her belly as she sits on a bench in a garden.


Profound changes to the immune system, lungs and heart during pregnancy make pregnant women more susceptible to severe complications from the flu and can even cause premature birth and birth defects.1 Find out what you can do to help protect yourself and your unborn baby from the flu.

The first and most important step you can take to protect yourself and your baby up to six months old is to get a flu shot. Flu shots have not been shown to harm pregnant women or their babies. In fact, millions of women around the world have received the flu shot and the World Health Organization recommends vaccination for women at any stage of pregnancy. However, pregnant women should not be given the nasal spray vaccine.1, 2

Since the flu shot is not 100% effective, it’s important to take additional steps to help protect yourself and your unborn baby, including:3, 4

  • Avoid close contact with people who have the flu as much as possible, even at home.
  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water. Or, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if you don’t have access to soap and water.
  • Don’t touch your eyes, nose and mouth, because the flu virus and other germs can spread that way.
  • Clean surfaces that may harbor germs, such as phones, keyboards and door handles.
  • Try to avoid crowds and places where people congregate during peak flu season, including schools, office buildings, malls and public transportation.

Having a fever caused by the flu or other infections early in pregnancy can cause birth defects in an unborn child. So if you get a fever or have flu-like symptoms, take an over-the-counter fever reducer and contact your doctor as soon as possible. If needed, your doctor will prescribe an antiviral medication to help treat the flu.1

If you have any of the following symptoms, contact your doctor or go to the hospital immediately:1

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • High fever that is not responding to an over-the-counter fever reducer
  • Pain or pressure in your chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness or confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Decreased or no movement of your baby

1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pregnant Women & Influenza (Flu). http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/vaccine/pregnant.htm. Accessed August 20, 2014.
2. World Health Organization. Influenza Fact Sheet N°211. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs211/en/. Accessed August 20, 2014.
3. Mayo Clinic. Diseases and Conditions: Influenza. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/flu/basics/definition/con-20035101. Accessed August 20, 2014.
4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Everyday Preventive Actions That Can Help Fight Germs, Like Flu. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/pdf/freeresources/updated/everyday_preventive.pdf. Accessed August 19, 2014.

Information provided is for general background purposes and is not intended as a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment by a trained professional. You should always consult your physician about any healthcare questions you may have, especially before trying a new medication, diet, fitness program, or approach to healthcare issues.
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