Flu Shots for Pregnant Women

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Did you get a flu shot when you were pregnant?

Nov. 1998

I was wondering if I could get some advice from women (and/or spouses) who have been pregnant in the last few years. My OB Nurse Practitioner at Kaiser told me that the CDC has recently changed their recommendations regarding flu shots for pregnant women and are now recommending it for anyone who will be in their second or third trimester during flu season. While I trust my nurse (and the CDC) I feel a little nervous about the fact that this recommendation is such a turn-around from what was previously thought, since I wonder if there's really been enough time to research the long-term effects on babies. Anyone have any thoughts about this? I'd like to hear from people who both did and did not have the shots, if possible, because I am trying to figure out what I want to do. Thank you for helping me out with this decision.

I did not get a flu shot while pregnant (2 years ago), but I did get very ill during my 4th month of pregnancy. In fact, I was so ill that I lost all the weight I had gained prior to that (about 10lbs). I was completely miserable and could take only a few things to try to relieve the symptoms. It was just a horrendous experience, and I think I was only able to make it to work for a total of 5 days that month. It just seemed to linger on forever. I'm not sure what kind of advice you will get, but I know that being ill during my pregnancy was the worst memory I had, and something I won't forget. Good luck. Melissa

I had the flu shot near the end of my first trimester (1995) upon my doctor's advice ( i have asthma and the flu could have resulted in much drug intervention if i developed pneumonia). I was nervous about it but experienced no complications at the time and my daughter seems not to have been affected. My sister-in-law did get the flu during her 2nd trimester. She didn't have anything like asthma to worry about. What she did was balance between keeping her fever below 102 (to avoid stressing the baby) and minimizing Tylenol doses (to avoid stressing the baby). It seems to be a balance of risks and exposures depending on your health, circumstances and exposures. Good Luck! Karen

Last year I was pregnant with my second child and much to my surprise my doc & nurse practitioner recommended the same thing (getting the flu shot). Because I have asthma, I followed the advice of my doc and had the shot given to me in my 2nd trimester. Thank goodness I did it! Everyone at work around me got really sick with the flu and all I ever ended up getting was a little cold. BTW, I gave birth to a VERY healthy 8 lb, 10 oz baby girl who is now 8 months old and very healthy herself. Trish

Im no expert, but since you asked for experiences...I had a flu shot last winter when I was pregnant with my son (born 3/23/98). I asked my OB about it and she recommended it, especially since I had a terrible flu every year before I started taking flu shots 3 years ago, and, knock on wood, haven't had one since. I found no ill effects at all, on me or my son. As my OB said, a bad flu can be very dangerous in pregnancy, much more so than the flu shot. It is especially recommended if you have older kids, or are around pre/school age kids. Good luck with your pregnancy! Ann

I had a flu shot about a month ago at around 16 weeks pregnant. I hope everything will be okay. I do know that flu shots have helped me immensely in the past, and now that I have a toddler who is bringing everything under the sun home, I think I will really benefit from the protection. I am under the impression that they evaluate the shot each year to decide whether pregnant women should use it. If you learn anything more about this I'd be interested to hear it. Jennifer

I am currently pregnant and did receive a flu shot this year, as I have in the past. I made the decision to go ahead after talking with the OB Nurse Practitioner and also reading the CDC information.

Here is the CDC website on flu shot for those who are interested. http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/diseases/flu/fluvac.htm

Even in past years flu shots were ok for women who were in their second or third trimesters. The difference this year is that pregnant women are on the list of people who should get the shot because they are at risk for serious complications if they do contract the flu. Based on what I read and my past experience with the vaccine, I decided to go ahead with it.

Here is the section from the CDC site on influenza and the vaccine for pregnant women

Case reports and limited studies suggest that pregnancy may increase the risk for serious medical complications of influenza as a result of increases in heart rate, stroke volume, and oxygen consumption; decreases in lung capacity; and changes in immunologic function. Researchers estimated that an average of 1 to 2 hospitalizations among pregnant women could be prevented for every 1,000 pregnant women vaccinated. On the basis of these and other data that suggest that influenza infection may cause increased morbidity among women during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends that women who will be beyond the first trimester of pregnancy (>14 weeks' gestation) during the influenza season be vaccinated. Pregnant women who have medical conditions that increase their risk for complications from influenza should be vaccinated before the influenza season--regardless of the stage of pregnancy. Studies of influenza vaccination of more than 2,000 pregnant women have demonstrated no adverse fetal effects associated with influenza vaccine; however, more data are needed. Because currently available influenza vaccine is not a live-virus vaccine and major systemic reactions to it are rare, many experts consider influenza vaccination safe during any stage of pregnancy. However, because spontaneous abortion is common in the first trimester and unnecessary exposures have traditionally been avoided during this time, some experts prefer influenza vaccination during the second trimester to avoid coincidental association of the vaccine with early pregnancy loss. Rose

I was pregnant 3 years ago and was told (after much research) NOT to do it. I finally figured this out by reading the materials that come with the flu shot serum (a nurse handed it to me and said, here is the patient package insert, read it.) And I did (read it, not get the shot). Maybe it has changed, but ask to see this piece of paper. It is medical mumbo jumbo but somewhere in there it says who should not have it. So I did not take it. Laura Beth