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.

Some community pharmacies now offer flu vaccination on the NHS.

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 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, 381kb).


Page last reviewed: 03/09/2014

Next review due: 03/09/2016

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