Pregnancy and baby

The flu jab in pregnancy

It’s recommended that all pregnant women have the flu vaccine, whatever stage of pregnancy they’re at.

Why should pregnant women have the flu vaccine?

Is the flu vaccine safe in pregnancy?

When should I have it?

How do I get the flu vaccine?

If I had the flu jab last year, do I have to have it again now?

Will the flu jab give me flu?

Can I have the flu jab at the same time as the whooping cough vaccine? 

I'm pregnant and think I have flu. What should I do?  

 

Why are pregnant women advised to have the flu vaccine?

The flu jab will protect both you and your baby.

There is good evidence that pregnant women have a higher chance of developing complications if they get flu, particularly in the later stages of pregnancy. One of the most common complications of flu is bronchitis, a chest infection that can become serious and develop into pneumonia. Other complications are not common, but include:

If you have flu while you're pregnant, it could mean your baby is born prematurely or has a low birthweight, and may even lead to stillbirth or death in the first week of life.

Is the flu vaccine safe in pregnancy?

Yes. Studies have shown that the flu vaccine is safe during any stage of pregnancy, from the first few weeks up to your expected due date. The vaccine doesn’t carry risks for either you or your baby.

Women who have had the flu vaccine while pregnant also pass some protection on to their babies, which lasts for the first few months of their lives.

The vaccine also poses no risk to women who are breastfeeding, or to their babies.

When should I have the flu jab?

The flu vaccine is normally available from September until around January or February each year. It is free for pregnant women.

If you're eligible for the vaccine, try to have it as soon as possible so that you’ll be protected by the time the flu viruses are circulating in the winter. Don't worry if you find that you're pregnant later on in the flu season, though, you can have the vaccine then if you haven’t already had it.

How do I get the flu vaccine?

Contact your midwife or GP to find out where you can get the flu vaccine. It’s a good idea to get vaccinated as soon as possible after the vaccine becomes available in September. In some areas, midwives can give a flu vaccine at the antenatal clinic, while in others you will need an appointment at your GP practice.

If I had the flu jab last year, do I need to have it again now?

Yes, because the viruses that cause flu change every year. This means that the flu (and the vaccine) this year may be different from last year. If you had the flu vaccine last year, either because you were pregnant or because you’re in a vulnerable group, you need to have it again this year.

Read more about how the flu vaccine works.

Will the flu jab give me flu?

No. The vaccine doesn’t contain any live viruses, so it can’t cause flu. Some people get a slight temperature and aching muscles for a couple of days afterwards, and you may feel a bit sore at the injection site.

Read more about how flu vaccine side effects.

Can I have the flu jab at the same time as the whooping cough vaccine?

Yes, you can have the flu jab at the same time as the whooping cough vaccine, but don't delay your flu jab simply so you can have both at the same time.

Pregnant women are at risk of severe illness from flu at any stage of pregnancy, and so really need to have the flu vaccine as soon as possible. You won't be offered the whooping cough vaccine until you are between 28 and 32 weeks pregnant (although it can be given up to 38 weeks pregnant).

It’s recommended that, for the time being, all pregnant women should get vaccinated against whooping cough when they are 28-32 weeks pregnant to protect their baby. This is a new recommendation, following a sharp rise in whooping cough cases in newborn babies in the UK.

Find out more about the whooping cough vaccine in pregnancy.

I'm pregnant and think I have flu. What should I do?

Talk to your doctor as soon as possible. If you do have flu, there's a prescribed medicine you can take that might help, or reduce your risk of complications, but it needs to be taken very soon after symptoms appear.

You can read more about flu, pregnancy and the vaccine in the leaflet Flu, your pregnancy and you (PDF, 300kb).


Page last reviewed: 03/09/2014

Next review due: 03/09/2016

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Comments

The 12 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

fluey said on 29 January 2014

The studies on vaccinations generally seem to fall into two categories; industry funded and independent. The industry funded studies(which includes most of the “Green Book”)are always positive while the independent studies are usually negative.

Bearing in mind that the JVCI allowed the MMR vaccine to be used on children untested (the original Urabe Am9 component of the vaccine was known to cause meningitis/encephalitis and was only withdrawn after two years because of reports from Canada and Japan) Most of the JCVI’s members also work for the Pharmaceutical companies that make the vaccines they recommend and Doctors are beginning to question the reliability of the “Green Book”. I am inclined not to “follow the money”but look to truly independent studies. The Cochrane Collaboration is generally agreed to be a “Gold Standard”

Last year they reviewed the available scientific evidence that flu shots protect the elderly and concluded that “The available evidence is of poor quality and provides no guidance regarding the safety, efficacy or effectiveness of influenza vaccines for people aged 65 years or older” They also concluded that for the general population “Influenza vaccines have only a modest effect in reducing influenza symptoms and working days lost. There is no evidence that they affect complications such as pneumonia or transmission”

In 2006, a large scale review of 51 studies published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews which involved 260,000 children aged 6 to 23 months concluded that there was “no evidence that the flu vaccine is any more effective than a placebo in preventing influenza in children under two”

Given the above, I thank you for you offer of a flu jab, but I would prefer to take Vitamin D3 supplement which according to a recent study (ref. below) children taking low doses of Vitamin D3 were shown to be 42 per cent less likely to come down with the flu.. There are also no injurious side effects.

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derekn7 said on 13 November 2013

It does state on the manufacturers leaflet that the flu shot has not been tested on pregnant women. Interesting how you think this is safe!

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Kathryn at NHS Choices said on 23 October 2013

Dear Fudge89,

I'm pleased you've had the flu vaccine. Your midwife was indeed wrong, as Emma_Dan2010 said, and as we're now into the flu season it could have been dangerous to delay.

To clarify, the flu vaccine is recommended for all pregnant women, whatever the stage of pregnancy you're at.

Best wishes,
Kathryn (NHS Choices editor)

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Fudge89 said on 22 October 2013

Thanks! I've had it now. Feel like I've gone behinf my midwife's back but who cares, me and baby is what matters. Thanks for your feedback and support. Glad I went with what I believed to be right thanks to this site and all of you :)

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Emma_Dan2010 said on 20 October 2013

Fudge89; You can have the flu jab at any time during pregnancy. Book an appointment with your GP. You don't need to wait until the time you would be due to have the whooping cough vaccine. The midwife is wrong. I'll be getting my flu jab done this week coming and I'll only be 7 weeks pregnant. If you are unsure, always seek a 2nd opinion. GP will know best hun

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ap24 said on 07 October 2013

I am 11 weeks pregnant and had a flu jab today. I have my dating and nuchal translucency scan in 9 days time where they will also take blood for the Downs Syndrome combined screening test. Could the flu jab affect the results of the Downs Syndrome blood test? I have not read anything that says so but am concerned.

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Fudge89 said on 07 October 2013

I'm a little confused. I spoke to my midwife today asking when I should get my flu jab and if I should just book myself in with the GP. She has told me that I don't need it until I'm 28 weeks pregnant. Having read this website before I thought that was only whooping cough. I thought I would revisit in case I was mistaken. I double checked with her and she assures me I don't need it yet but I am 18 weeks now and wont be 28 weeks (and therefore eligible) until 13th December... This can't be right. Should I just call my GP and see what they say and go over my midwife's head as it where?
Advice please

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PhilMcavity said on 27 September 2013

My daughter is pregnant and was advised to have the flu jab as soon as possible, particularly as this baby is very vulnerable. She is expecting in early November but has been told the vaccine won't be available until sometime in October - she's really worried about contracting flu during the pregnancy but there's nothing she can do about it!

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Kathryn at NHS Choices said on 09 September 2013

Dear Hang Dinh,
Yes, it's fine - and recommended - to have the flu jab at 36 weeks. It's safe and effective to have right up to birth.
Thanks,
Kathryn Bingham, NHS Choices editor

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Hang Dinh said on 04 September 2013

I am 32-week-pregnant now and have not got the flu jab yet because my GP said that the flu season has not come so there is not flu vaccine available at this time.
My due date is 24 October. According to the above information, the flu vaccine would by supply from October each year, and it would be really close to my due date.
Therefore, should I have flu jab when it is available in October (when my pregnancy is nearly 36 weeks)?
Thank you so much.

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Kathryn at NHS Choices said on 14 August 2013

Dear wildelady1,

The flu vaccine has been offered to pregnant women here in the UK since 2009 and there have been no reports of serious adverse reactions in them or their children. There’s even more extensive experience of the flu jab in pregnancy from the US, again with no evidence of any increase in adverse events.

A recent study from the US - which is the largest, best and most reliable to date - compared 74,000 women who received a flu jab at any stage of pregnancy with similar pregnant women who did not receive the vaccine and found no evidence of harm to the pregnant woman, the unborn baby or to newborns. You can read a summary of the study here: http://journals.lww.com/greenjournal/Abstract/publishahead/Inactivated_Influenza_Vaccine_During_Pregnancy_and.99718.aspx

Regards,
Kathryn Bingham, NHS Choices editor


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wildelady1 said on 20 June 2013

Please can you provide a reference to the evidence that proves the flu vaccine is safe for pregnant women and their children?
How long term have the outcomes been measured?

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