The short answer is that not only can pregnant people get flu vaccines, but it’s a good idea. During pregnancy, the flu is more likely to cause severe illness than it is outside of pregnancy. This is due to changes to the immune system during pregnancy, as well as other physical changes. In addition to being more likely to be dangerous to moms-to-be during pregnancy, the flu can also be a danger to babies in the womb. The influenza vaccine, or flu vaccine, is the best-known way to prevent the flu and the dangers it brings with it.
The flu vaccine is covered as preventive medicine when given by your doctor or at a participating location.
When should I get the flu vaccine?
The CDC and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists both recommend that pregnant women get the flu vaccine during flu season, no matter what trimester of pregnancy they’re in. Women who are trying to conceive and postpartum women should also get the flu vaccine during flu season if they haven’t yet that year.
And it’s not just moms-to-be who can help protect newborns by getting the flu vaccine during flu season. Because babies under six months old can’t get the flu vaccine, but are at risk for being hospitalized if they get the flu, the CDC recommends that family, friends, close caregivers, and anyone else who will be spending a lot of time with a newborn also get the flu vaccine.
What does the flu vaccine do?
The flu vaccine is one of the most important lines of defense against the flu. This means that it does a few important jobs in the body during pregnancy:
- Prevents flu and complications: The flu is more likely to cause a dangerous illness during pregnancy than outside of pregnancy. There’s also an increased risk of being hospitalized for the flu. In addition, having a fever caused by the flu early on in pregnancy can increase the risk of birth defects.
- Protects baby during pregnancy and after birth: Not only does the flu vaccine protect developing babies from the complications the flu can have on a pregnancy, but it also continues to protect the baby from the flu after birth. After getting a flu vaccine, a person develops antibodies that protect from the flu. These antibodies are passed on in the placenta and in breast milk. This is especially important because babies under six months old can’t get the flu vaccine themselves, so they depend on this borrowed immune system protection, as well as herd immunity, to protect them.
Where to get a flu vaccine
Harvard Pilgrim Health Care covers the cost of the flu vaccine at many convenient locations including your primary care physician’s office, participating MiniClinics and pharmacies, public and community-based centers; and even your employer may offer it. Remember to bring your Harvard Pilgrim ID card.
Tap the button below to find a participating location, or learn more about the flu vaccine from Harvard Pilgrim’s website. You can also learn more about your benefits and coverage by calling Member Services at 888-333-4742. For easy reference this number is located on the back of your Harvard Pilgrim ID card.
How to protect against whooping cough
Once babies are two months old, they’re able to receive the DTaP vaccine, which protects against whooping cough. But before two months, it’s essential that those who come into contact with baby stay up to date with their own Tdap boosters, especially the birthing parent.
It’s recommended to get the Tdap booster during pregnancy between 27 and 36 weeks. Once your immune system builds antibodies against whooping cough, these antibodies will provide your baby with some immunity as well. If you don’t get a Tdap booster during pregnancy, you should do so immediately after giving birth, though in this case you won’t pass on immunity to baby.
What about a COVID-19 vaccine?
The CDC, ACOG (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists), and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) recommend that pregnant people get the COVID vaccine. They also recommend it for those who are trying to conceive and to those who are breastfeeding. The vaccine doesn’t contain the virus itself, so it can’t give someone COVID-19.
The vaccine has not only been shown to be safe and effective for pregnant people, it is particularly important for this group. Those who are pregnant and do contract the virus have an increased risk of severe illness themselves and an increased risk of preterm delivery. That said, if you’ve experienced severe allergic reactions to other vaccines in the past or have an underlying health condition, it’s a good idea to chat with your healthcare provider beforehand.