Although most healthy people will suffer a serious but self-limited illness lasting one to two weeks, some groups are particularly vulnerable to significant disease and potentially death. Pregnant women are more likely to become seriously ill and to die than the general population. The risk to the mother of complications from influenza increases in the later stages of pregnancy. Infection in the third trimester of pregnancy appears to be the most dangerous for the pregnant woman.
Pregnant women are at increased risk of severe consequences of influenza infection because of the changes that occur to a woman’s body during pregnancy e.g., changes to lung function, increased cardiac output, increased oxygen consumption, and changes to the immune response.
The best protection for pregnant women against flu is vaccination.
Vaccination protects the mother and her newborn baby for the first six months after birth. Vaccination needs to be given each year because the viruses are always changing.
Influenza vaccination during pregnancy should be routine: safety is well established. Influenza vaccination is safe at any stage of pregnancy and all types of influenza vaccines are considered acceptable for use in pregnant women.
Influenza vaccine is available free to all pregnant women in Australia.
To receive the influenza vaccination, visit your local doctor or immunisation provider. (The vaccine is free; however, a consultation fee may apply).
Vaccination early in the season and regardless of gestational age is optimal. Unvaccinated pregnant women should be immunised at any time during influenza season as long as the vaccine supply lasts.
In Australia the flu season is between May to October, usually peaking by the end of August.
The only absolute contraindications to influenza vaccines are:
- anaphylaxis following a previous dose of any influenza vaccine; or
- anaphylaxis following any vaccine component.
The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG) strongly endorse routine influenza vaccination of pregnant women and women planning pregnancy.