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Why are pregnant women at higher risk of flu complications?

Women are at higher risk of complications from flu during pregnancy because they have a weaker immune system, the body's defence against infections.

When you're pregnant, your body naturally weakens your immune system to ensure the pregnancy is successful.

The best way to avoid getting flu is by getting vaccinated. Having the flu jab will protect both you and your baby.

Find out more about getting the flu jab during pregnancy.

Flu complications

You're less able to fight infections during pregnancy.

Flu can also be serious for newborn babies, who can catch the infection from their mothers.

One of the most common complications of flu is bronchitis, a chest infection that can become serious and develop into pneumonia.

Other less common complications of flu include:

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

Preventing flu

GP practices will update their patient registers throughout the flu season and pay particular attention to women who become pregnant during the flu season.

To reduce your risk of getting flu or spreading it to other people, you should always:

  • make sure you wash your hands regularly with soap and warm water
  • clean surfaces such as your keyboard, telephone and door handles regularly to get rid of germs
  • use tissues to cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze
  • put used tissues in a bin as soon as possible

But the best way to avoid catching and spreading flu is by getting the flu vaccine, ideally during autumn before the flu season starts.

Further information

Page last reviewed: 6 January 2020
Next review due: 6 January 2023