What You Should Know about the Flu

The flu (a virus) is a threat to all of us. But pregnant women who get the flu are more prone to severe illness, being hospitalized and even dying than others. Changes during pregnancy in the immune system, heart and lungs put pregnant women (and women up to two weeks postpartum) more at risk. Pregnant woman with flu also have a greater chance of major problems with their unborn baby, such as premature labor and delivery.

The Flu Shot is the Best Protection

Getting a flu shot is the first and most important step in protecting against flu. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all pregnant women get vaccinated soon as possible – at any point in their pregnancy.

The flu shot given during pregnancy has been shown to protect both the mother and her baby (up to 6 months old) from flu. The nasal spray vaccine should not be given to women who are pregnant.

Protecting Yourself, Your Baby and Your Family

  • Wash your hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds, especially after you cough or sneeze. Use alcohol-based hand sanitizers when you are not able to wash your hands.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough and sneeze or sneeze into your upper sleeve if you do not have a tissue. Make sure you throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth as germs can spread this way.
  • Whenever you can, avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • If you are sick, stay at home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone – unless you are seeking medical attention or an emergency.
  • If you are pregnant and have been around someone who has flu, talk to your healthcare provider.

How Will I Know if I Have the Flu?

The symptoms of flu are similar to some other common winter illnesses. If you have flu, you may have:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Body aches
  • Headaches
  • Chills
  • Feel very tired
  • Possible diarrhea and vomiting

What if I Get Sick?

If you have flu-like symptoms, stay at home and call your doctor as soon as possible. Your doctor will let you know what tests and treatment are needed. He may prescribe an antiviral medicine to treat the flu.

If others in your community have flu, pay extra attention to how you are feeling. If you are exposed to someone who has flu, contact your doctor to see if you need treatment to lower your risk of getting the flu.

Should I Breastfeed My Baby if I Am Sick with Flu?

Yes, continue to breastfeed your baby if you are sick. A mother’s milk is made to fight diseases in her baby. Babies who drink breast milk do not get as sick from the flu as babies who are not breastfed.

If you are sick with the flu while breastfeeding:

Wear a mask to keep from spreading the virus to your baby.

Pump and have someone give the expressed milk to your baby if you are too sick to breastfeed.

Be careful not to cough or sneeze in the baby’s face and remember to wash your hands with soap and warm water often.

Where can I get a flu shot?

Flu vaccines are offered in many locations, including doctor’s offices, clinics, health departments, pharmacies, college health centers, as well as by many employers and even in some schools.

Check with your healthcare provider about where and when to get the vaccine. Know that you can get a flu shot even if you don’t have a regular doctor or nurse.

The following Vaccine Locator is a useful tool for finding vaccine in your area.

For more information about flu and flu vaccine, visit CDC: Key Facts about Seasonal Flu