Flu vaccination when pregnant
It's known that flu can cause serious complications for you and your baby. You could both get ill. All pregnant women should have the flu vaccine to protect themselves and their babies.
The flu vaccine can be given safely at any stage of pregnancy, from conception onwards. You can get the free flu jab from your GP, pharmacist or midwife.
Pregnant women benefit from the flu vaccine because it will:
- Reduce the risk of serious complications such as pneumonia, particularly in the later stages of pregnancy
- Help protect their baby, who will continue to have some immunity to flu during the first few months of his or her life
- Reduce the chance of the mother passing the infection to her new baby
- Reduce the risk of miscarriage or having a baby born too soon or with a low birthweight
If you have flu symptoms, you should talk to your doctor urgently. If you do have flu, there is a prescribed medicine that might help or reduce the risk of complications, but it needs to be taken as soon as possible after the symptoms appear.
The flu jab is the safest way to help protect you and your baby. It's free because you need it, however many months pregnant you are, and however fit and healthy you might feel.
You can get the free flu vaccine from your GP, or it may also be available from your pharmacist or midwife.
Why are pregnant women advised to have the flu vaccine?
The flu jab will help 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. 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.
Is the flu vaccine safe in pregnancy?
Yes. Studies have shown that it's safe to have the flu vaccine during any stage of pregnancy, from the first few weeks up to your expected due date. 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. It's safe for women who are breastfeeding to have the vaccine.
When should I have the flu jab?
The flu vaccine is normally available from September until around January or February each year. It's free for pregnant women. If you're eligible for the vaccine, try to have it as soon as possible so you're 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 – 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. In others, you will need an appointment at a 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 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.
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.
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, so you really need to have the flu vaccine as soon as possible.
The best time to get vaccinated against whooping cough is from 16 weeks up to 32 weeks of pregnancy. If you miss having the vaccine for any reason, you can still have it up until you go into labour.
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.