If you’re pregnant, getting a flu shot not only protects you; it can protect your baby until he or she is old enough to get her own immunization.

Marking your calendar

All pregnant women and those planning to become pregnant should receive a flu shot because the normal changes to a pregnant woman’s immune system, heart and lungs put moms-to-be at increased risk of the harmful effects of flu infection.

"Those who are in close contact with pregnant women should be immunized each year. "

Also, babies born to mothers who got their flu shot while pregnant are protected from influenza during their first six months of life. They have a lower risk of flu-related hospitalizations for chronic asthma, heart conditions, diabetes, a weakened immune system and other health-related problems.

Staying safe

Women who become sick with the flu early in pregnancy are twice as likely to have a baby with a serious birth defect of the brain, spine or heart than women who don’t catch the virus. It’s unclear whether it’s the high fever associated with the flu, or the flu itself that contributes to the increased risk of birth defects, but getting a flu shot can provide some protection.

Pregnant women can lower their risk of catching influenza by limiting contact with others who are sick; not touching the eyes, nose and mouth; washing hands with soap and water; using hand sanitizers; and not sharing dishes, glasses, utensils, or toothbrushes. Those who are in close contact with pregnant women should be immunized each year.