Pregnancy and the Flu

Medically Reviewed by Carmelita Swiner, MD on May 16, 2023
3 min read

Catching the flu is never good, especially not when you’re expecting. The illness can be more severe when you’re pregnant, and it may last three times longer in moms-to-be. You may be more likely to get complications like pneumonia, too, which could lead to hospitalization. And a serious flu raises the risk of preterm labor and delivery.

On the bright side, a flu isn’t likely to hurt your baby. And being pregnant doesn’t make you any more likely to get the flu than women your age who aren’t expecting. Best of all, there are easy ways to avoid it and have a healthy pregnancy.

Get a flu shot. The vaccine is the number one way to prevent this illness. You can get the shot no matter how far along you are -- even the third trimester isn’t too late.

Flu season can begin as early as October and last as late as May. October or November is the best time to get vaccinated, but you can get the shot as long as it's being offered.

The shot will protect both you and the baby from getting the flu for 6 months after you give birth. This is especially important because the flu shot isn’t safe for infants less than 6 months old.

If you have had contact with someone who has the flu, your doctor may recommend that you take an antiviral medication as a prevention measure.

It doesn’t contain the live virus and can’t give you the flu. You may have fatigue and muscle aches afterward as your immune system responds to the vaccine.

The flu shot is also OK while you’re breastfeeding. It can’t cause you or your nursing baby to get sick. The shot takes about 2 weeks to work.

Pregnant women should not get the nasal flu vaccine.Pregnant women should not use a nasal flu vaccine called FluMist that contains live but weakened viruses. It has not been tested for safety during pregnancy.

The American Lung Association offers an online flu vaccine clinic locator. Visit the site, enter a zip code and a date (or dates), and you’ll get information about clinics in your area.

Pharmacies offer the flu shots, as do local health departments and your doctor's office. 



 Call your doctor before you take any over-the-counter treatment.

Your doctor may suggest:

You can usually find these treatments among over-the-counter cold and flu remedies. Check labels carefully.

Your doctor will know what prescription drug you can use. There are 4 to choose from: baloxavir marboxil (Xofluza), oseltamivir (Tamiflu), peramivir (Rapivab), or zanamivir (Relenza) in pregnant women with suspected or test-proven flu. Xofluza and oseltamivir are taken by mouth are preferred because of their safety and effectiveness.

Pregnant women should take antiviral drugs as a first-line treatment. For symptoms, try these four natural flu remedies:

  • Use sugar- or honey-based lozenges to relieve sore throats and coughs.
  • Get plenty of bed rest.
  • Drink lots of fluids, like water, juice, and caffeine-free tea.
  • Put an air humidifier in your room to provide extra moisture, which can help ease congestion.

Get a flu shot. Don’t use FluMist, the nasal spray influenza vaccine. It isn’t recommended for pregnant women.

To avoid catching the illness when you’re pregnant:

  • Wash your hands often.
  • Avoid crowds.
  • Stay away from people who have a cold.
  • Don’t touch your eyes, nose, or mouth. Germs are often spread when you touch a contaminated surface and then touch these areas.