Flu During Pregnancy: Risks, Symptoms, and Prevention

2023-02-28T14:16:24-07:00December 21st, 2020|

Getting the flu while pregnant can put you and your baby at greater risk for certain illnesses. For example, pregnant women are more likely to require hospitalization for the flu. Fortunately, early diagnosis can help reduce the symptoms and duration of the disease. You can also help prevent the flu by keeping up with your flu vaccines. It is safe and beneficial for women carrying a child to receive a flu vaccine.

This article discusses the causes and symptoms of the flu and the safety and benefits of getting a flu shot while pregnant.

Causes of Flu in Pregnancy

Pregnant and nonpregnant women catch the flu through the same virus. The infection impacts your nose, lungs, and throat. It also causes respiratory distress similar to a cold. Unfortunately, women can catch this virus by breathing it in or touching surfaces with the virus on them.

If someone has the flu, they can infect others even before they show symptoms. Typically, it takes 5 to 7 days for symptoms to show up. Someone with severe symptoms and young children may spread the disease for even longer. The flu is highly contagious, so it’s easy to spread it before you know you’re sick.

Symptoms of Flu During Pregnancy

Getting the flu during pregnancy can result in serious illness. So, see a healthcare provider at the first sign of symptoms. Antiviral medications often help you feel better sooner and reduce the severity of your illness. It’s also a good idea to talk to your provider about getting a flu shot to protect your baby and yourself.

Look out for these symptoms:

  • Chills
  • Dry cough
  • Nasal congestion
  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sudden onset of fever
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle aches
  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose

Learn more about how viruses, such as the coronavirus, affect pregnant women.

Why Pregnant Women Are More Likely to Get the Flu

Pregnant women are more likely to become ill with the flu — here’s why. Dr. Sherry Ross of Santa Monica’s Providence Saint John’s Health Center is a women’s health expert. She states that pregnant women are more likely to get the flu due to biological changes associated with gestation.

“In pregnancy, there are changes in the immune system, heart, and lung function that make pregnant women more prone to severe illness from the flu, which can lead to hospitalization or even death,” says Ross.

If you’re pregnant, take extra care to stay healthy and avoid those with flu-like symptoms.

Dr. Fangyin Meng of Orange County’s Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine emphasizes, “Pregnant women are more likely to get the flu than same age, not pregnant women.”

Visit your healthcare provider at the first sign of the flu. They can help you strategize the best way to feel better and recover quickly.

Can the Flu Cause Miscarriage?

Yes. Studies show contracting the flu while pregnant can lead to a higher risk of miscarriage. It can also cause premature birth or low birth weight.

Management & Treatment

With the help of your doctor and the proper at-home treatment, you can manage your health during pregnancy. This includes taking actions to prevent the flu and, if you do get it, following the necessary steps to help speed up your recovery. It’s also helpful to know what steps you can take to prevent contracting the flu in the first place.

When to See a Doctor

A pregnant woman should see a doctor as soon as possible to treat a case of the flu. A healthcare provider will usually start you on antiviral medication immediately.

At-Home Treatment

Follow these steps to aid the healing process and possibly reduce the severity of flu symptoms:

  • Rest!
  • Drink plenty of water and other fluids.
  • Stay home to avoid making others sick.
  • Take medications as directed.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces.
  • Get plenty of sleep.
  • Keep stress low.
  • Stay active during pregnancy.


So, you’ve gotten your flu shot and are wondering what else you can do to avoid catching the flu during your pregnancy. Pregnant women should take the same preventive actions recommended by the CDC, including the following:

  • Avoid sick people
  • Cover your cough
  • Wash your hands as much as possible
  • Eat a bowl of chicken soup

Additionally, if you breastfeed another child, it can help strengthen their immune system.

How can I prevent flu during pregnancy?

Get the flu vaccine whether you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant. According to the CDC, pregnant women have a higher risk of developing complications from the flu and other diseases.

You’re less likely to become sick when you get the flu shot. Often, a mild case of influenza isn’t harmful to you or the baby. However, severe cases can harm the baby and affect the viability of your pregnancy.

Are you wondering where you can get a flu shot? Your healthcare provider may give them in the office, or you can contact a nearby health clinic. Flu shots are available by injection or via a nasal spray.

The flu shot contains dead flu viruses, so you can’t get the illness from the vaccine. However, pregnant women shouldn’t get the nasal spray vaccine due to a lack of testing and studies on possible side effects. That said, you can hang around with vaccinated friends and family members.

Is the flu shot safe while pregnant?

Absolutely, so get your flu shot while pregnant. Millions of women have taken the flu shot while carrying a child. Following pregnancy, you can get the shot or nasal spray types of vaccines. During pregnancy, you can receive the shot during any trimester.

Will a flu shot during pregnancy hurt your baby?

No. Typically, the flu vaccine can only help your pregnancy. This is because the shot has antibodies you pass to your baby via the placenta. If you breastfeed, you can also pass the antibodies to your child. However, you should avoid the nasal spray vaccine while pregnant.

Can I get the flu shot if I’m going through fertility treatments?

Yes. In fact, a flu shot can help prevent delays during the fertility cycle. But conversely, catching the flu can delay your fertility treatments. So far, no one has found a negative correlation between getting the flu shot and receiving fertility treatments.

A severe flu infection may cause early labor or a miscarriage. It may also cause you to develop a lung infection or even death. On the other hand, a flu vaccine can prevent a pregnant woman from getting the disease or cause the illness to be less severe.

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