Influenza and Pregnancy

Help protect our mums-to-be and newborns

Influenza affects different population groups disproportionately with pregnant women, the very young, the very old and people with certain health conditions at highest risk of serious complications.

Two important groups at high-risk of disease and serious complications have been recognised since the 1918 influenza pandemic, they are pregnant women and their babies (up to 6 months of age). 

Influenza vaccination of pregnant women during any stage of pregnancy has been found to be highly effective in preventing influenza and its complications in the woman and her baby, during
pregnancy and for up to 6 months after birth by the passive protection passed on to the growing baby through the placenta.

The World Health Organization recommends influenza vaccination of pregnant women at any stage of pregnancy, and that they are given the highest priority.76 Influenza vaccination has been
recommended and funded in New Zealand for pregnant women since 2010.

Inactivated influenza vaccine is used in New Zealand. There are no concerns about the safety of influenza vaccination during any trimester of pregnancy. 

The funded influenza vaccine is available in early March for pregnant women. The vaccine will be available until 31 December.

The importance of recommendation/discussion with pregnant women

There is considerable research to show that patients value the recommendation of their health professional. Studies have indicated that an explanation covering the following three aspects is important:

The risk of influenza for the pregnant woman, her growing baby and her vulnerable newborn

The effectiveness of the vaccine in reducing the risk of influenza for the woman and her baby, both during pregnancy and after birth

The excellent safety profile of the influenza vaccination during pregnancy, and that the potential complications from catching influenza post a greater threat to the pregnant woman and her baby

Further information

Influenza survivor Kim Neho – Influenza and Pregnant Women

Kim Neho watches her seven-month-old twins rolling around the floor trying to sit upright in their Kaitaia home and, as she does every day, counts her lucky stars she is still around to witness these milestone moments.

Rewind seven months and she was lying in a coma at death’s door, her body ravaged by influenza and a range of other complications, surrounded by her husband, three kids and, nuzzling into their mother, her newborn twins, who she was yet to meet (Courtesy of the Northland District Health Board - Media Release)

Vaccination and Breastfeeding

The influenza vaccine can be given to a breastfeeding woman. Protecting the mother can help prevent her becoming infected and transmitting influenza to her baby. Breastfeeding may offer some protection against influenza.