Flu can be a serious infection for pregnant women and their babies. A pregnant woman who catches the flu is more likely to require hospitalisation than a woman who is not pregnant.
Pregnant women should have a flu vaccine once during each pregnancy and it can be given at any stage of pregnancy.
If you are pregnant and considering getting a flu vaccine, here are some frequently asked questions and answers that we hope you will find useful.
What is Flu?
Flu is a highly infectious disease with symptoms such as fever, chills, aches and pains in the joints and muscles, headaches, and extreme tiredness. It is caused by a virus that spreads mainly by coughing, sneezing, and close contact. Flu is usually worse than a bad cold and you may need to spend a few days in bed recovering. Although serious infections are less common in healthy adults, they can sometimes lead to hospitalisation, permanent disability and even death.
Why is Flu more serious in pregnancy?
Your immune system is naturally weakened during pregnancy, and you may be prone to infections. As your baby grows, you may have difficulty taking deep breaths and that may cause you to be less able to clear respiratory secretions such as mucus and phlegm, thus increasing the risk of infections such as pneumonia. Such changes increase the risk of serious complications from flu for pregnant women, especially if you are at risk of other conditions such as diabetes.
Having the flu vaccination means that you are less likely to get ill with flu, thereby reducing the risk of you having serious complications such as pneumonia (lung infection). For these reasons, we recommend that all pregnant women take the flu vaccine.
What are the risks for my baby if I catch the Flu?
Flu can be serious for unborn and newborn babies, resulting in premature birth, low birth weight, stillbirth or even death in the first weeks of life.
What does vaccination involve?
The flu vaccination involves a single injection into the arm and takes around 14 days to provide protection following vaccination. As the flu virus is always changing, a new flu vaccine is made every year to protect against the strains that are likely to cause diseases. We recommend annual vaccination or vaccination every time you get pregnant.
The side effects of the flu vaccine are mild, compared to the disease itself and are not exclusive to pregnant women. Soreness and redness at the injection site are most common. You may also get a headache, muscle aches, fever, or tiredness. These symptoms usually last for a day or two after the vaccination as it starts to work in the body.
What are the benefits for my baby if I get vaccinated?
By having the vaccination, you reduce the chances of getting flu during your pregnancy. As such, the risk of complications from flu is reduced. Your baby will also develop some immunity to flu as antibodies are passed from you to your baby via the placenta. This will provide some protection for your baby during the first few months of life. With the vaccination, you will continue to be protected throughout the flu seasons, be less likely to catch the flu and pass it on to your baby.
Is the Flu vaccination safe to have during pregnancy?
The answer is yes. It is safe to have the flu vaccine at any time during pregnancy. The flu vaccines offered to pregnant women contain only killed (inactivated)flu viruses, which do not cause flu. Since 2009, several countries have offered the flu vaccine routinely to all pregnant women. Studies show that inactivated flu vaccines can be safely and effectively administered during all stages of pregnancy for both mother and baby.
What should I do if I think I have caught the Flu?
Seek medical attention urgently and inform the medical staff that you are pregnant. Medication is available but you need to take it as soon as possible after symptoms start for it to work. The best way to protect yourself and your baby against flu is to have the vaccine.
Get your flu vaccination appointment here.
Dr Shilla Mariah
Shilla Mariah Clinic For Women
A wholly owned subsidiary of Singapore Women’s & Children’s Medical Group
11 Tanjong Katong Road #01-63/64 KINEX
Tel: +65 6970 7710
Fax: +65 6970 7709
Monday to Friday (Except Wednesday): 10.00am to 1.00pm, 2.00pm to 6.00pm
Wednesday: 2.00pm to 5.00pm, 6.00pm to 9.00pm
Saturday: 10.00am to 2.00pm