The simple answer is: yes.
We often get asked by expectant mothers if it is safe to receive the influenza immunisation and, with concerns particularly high during the global pandemic and the flu season just around the corner, the question is coming up more frequently. We understand pregnancy can already be an anxious time and, now more than ever, it is important to get the right information about this vaccine.
We spoke to obstetrician and maternal foetal medicine (MFM) specialist, Adriana Olog, to get the information on why and when you should get the flu shot.
Why should I get the influenza immunisation?
Not only is it safe to get the influenza immunisation during pregnancy, it is recommended by the Australian Department of Health, and a range of other international governing bodies on health in pregnancy, that all pregnant women receive the flu shot during the flu season regardless of their trimester.
Dr Olog says while many of us have only ever experienced mild flu-like symptoms that are usually a common cold, it is important to remember that influenza is a very serious disease, particularly for pregnant women.
“Pregnancy leads to changes in the immune, heart and lung functions that make expectant mothers more vulnerable to the disease,” says Dr Olog.
“Therefore, you have a significantly higher risk than other adults of complications and hospitalisation if you come down with the flu during pregnancy.
“It is important even if you consider yourself healthy, and therefore low risk, that you have the flu vaccine for this reason.”
Does it protect my baby?
Dr Olog says when you receive the influenza immunisation, you’re protecting both yourself and your baby.
“Your baby can’t be immunised until they are six months old, but are susceptible to serious complications if they come down with the flu during this time,” Dr Olog says.
“Babies under six months are more likely to be hospitalised with influenza than any other age group, as it can cause serious complications like pneumonia.
“Being immunised during your pregnancy is the best way to protect your newborn baby, as you pass on antibodies through the placenta, helping them in their first few months of life.
“Also, by decreasing your chances of getting the flu in pregnancy, you avoid being unwell with high temperatures that can increase the risk of preterm birth in some cases.”
When should I get the flu shot during my pregnancy?
Dr Olog says the influenza vaccine is recommended during any trimester and every pregnancy.
“We would encourage getting the vaccine at the start of the flu season, so pregnant women should consider getting it as soon as possible,” Dr Olog says.
Where do I get the immunisation?
The flu shot is free for pregnant women as part of the National Immunisation Program, and is available from your general practitioner and some pharmacies.
Read more about receiving the influenza immunisation during pregnancy on the Australian Department of Health website.