Flu vaccine

Date: September 2020, Version 3.0

Quick read

Seasonal flu vaccination is recommended in pregnancy to protect the woman from complications of flu and to help prevent the baby from catching flu in the first few weeks after birth.

What are they? 

Seasonal flu vaccines stimulate the body to produce antibodies that fight flu. A different seasonal flu vaccine is produced each year because the flu strains that circulate tend to change each winter. This is why having been vaccinated against flu before will not necessarily protect you in a different year.

The seasonal flu vaccine is offered each year in the UK to ‘priority groups’ who are most at risk of flu complications that could lead to hospitalisation, like pneumonia. These groups include pregnant women and people with underlying health conditions, such as asthma, diabetes, and severe obesity.


What are the benefits of having a flu vaccination in pregnancy?

Flu vaccination can prevent flu infection and its complications, some of which are more likely in pregnant women. This is thought to be due to the changes that naturally occur to the lungs and circulatory system, particularly after 24 weeks of pregnancy. Flu vaccination might also help to prevent miscarriages, stillbirth and preterm birth, as these outcomes are more likely in pregnant women with flu.

When a pregnant woman receives the flu vaccine during the latter half of pregnancy, the antibodies she produces cross the placenta to her unborn baby. These antibodies protect the baby from flu in the first few weeks of life.


Are there any risks of having a flu vaccination during pregnancy?

Many thousands of pregnant women who have received flu vaccines have been studied. Overall, the data do not raise concern of harmful effects on the baby.


Are there any alternatives to having a flu vaccine?

No. While good hygiene measures (such as regular handwashing, avoiding touching the face) can reduce a person’s chance of catching flu, vaccination is the best way to prevent flu infection.

No treatment

What if I prefer not to receive a flu vaccination during pregnancy?

In the UK the flu vaccine will be offered at an antenatal appointment and women can choose whether or not to have it. Pregnant women with conditions such as asthma, diabetes and obesity should be aware that these may further increase the chance of complications from flu, and so vaccination may be even more important for them. A doctor or midwife will be happy to discuss any concerns with women who are considering having the vaccine.

Will my baby need extra monitoring?

All pregnant women in the UK should be offered a detailed anomaly scan at around 20 weeks of pregnancy as part of their routine antenatal care. No extra monitoring is required following flu vaccination in pregnancy. 

Are there any risks to my baby if the father received the flu vaccine?

We would not expect any increased risk to the baby if the father has had a flu vaccination.

Who can I talk to if I have questions? 

If you have any questions regarding the information in this leaflet please discuss them with your health care provider. They can access more detailed medical and scientific information from www.uktis.org.

How can I help to improve drug safety information for pregnant women in the future?

Our online reporting system (MyBump Portal) allows women who are currently pregnant to create a secure record of their pregnancy, collected through a series of questionnaires. You will be asked to enter information about your health, whether or not you take any medicines, your pregnancy outcome and your child's development. You can update your details at any time during pregnancy or afterwards. This information will help us better understand how medicines affect the health of pregnant women and their babies. Please visit the MyBump Portal to register.

General information
Sadly, miscarriage and birth defects can occur in any pregnancy.

Miscarriage occurs in about 1 in every 5 pregnancies, and 1 in every 40 babies are born with a birth defect. This is called the ‘background risk’ and happens whether medication is taken or not.

Most medicines cross the placenta and reach the baby. For many medications this is not a problem. However, some medicines can affect a baby’s growth and development.

If you take regular medication and are planning to conceive, you should discuss whether your medicine is safe to continue with your doctor/health care team before becoming pregnant. If you have an unplanned pregnancy while taking a medicine, you should tell your doctor as soon as possible.

If a new medicine is suggested for you during pregnancy, please make sure that the person prescribing it knows that you are pregnant. If you have any concerns about a medicine, you can check with your doctor, midwife or pharmacist.

Our Bumps information leaflets provide information about the effects of medicines in pregnancy so that you can decide, together with your healthcare provider, what is best for you and your baby.