One-quarter to one-third of influenza-related hospitalizations in females between 15 and 44 years of age during the eight most recent influenza seasons were pregnant women, according to a study reported in the Oct. 8, 2019, issue of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Vital Signs.

Further, 100 babies less than 6 months of age died from influenza during the same period, and half of pertussis-related hospitalizations and two-thirds of pertussis-related deaths occurred in infants younger than 2 months of age.

Pregnant women …

Pregnant women are at increased risk of respiratory infections, as well as complications from infections like influenza, because of the increased fluid volume they experience, the stress on their hearts and lungs, and immune suppression, necessary for “tolerance” of the developing baby.

The study by Megan Lindley and colleagues found that just over half of pregnant women were vaccinated against influenza (53.7%). Vaccination against pertussis, with a single dose of Tdap vaccine, was not much better (54.9%). However, these rates increased to about two-thirds, when vaccination was offered or patients were given a referral by their healthcare provider.

Find out more about the changes to the immune system and reasons for vaccination during pregnancy, or share this photocopy-ready Q&A with your pregnant patients.

… and their babies

Babies cannot benefit from influenza vaccine until 6 months of age, and pertussis infections are particularly dangerous for infants younger than 2 months of age. In fact, babies younger than 6 months of age are the most likely to be hospitalized and die from influenza, compared to any other time during childhood. Similarly, children younger than 1 year of age are more likely than any other age group to be hospitalized with pertussis, and, sadly, 88% of pertussis-related deaths occur in this age group.

By vaccinating a pregnant woman, the risk of her baby being hospitalized with influenza in the first six months of life or pertussis in the first two months of life decreases by 72% and more than 90%, respectively.

Visit the Vaccine Education Center website to find out more about immune system development in babies, how the genetically distinct immune systems co-exist, and the role of maternal antibodies.


Pregnant women watch what they eat and drink, and they carefully choose car seats, cribs and bedding in order to protect their babies during pregnancy and in the months after birth.

Healthcare providers monitor the baby’s growth, mom’s blood pressure and weight gain, and check glucose and STD status to protect both mom and baby.

So, why aren’t providers recommending, and moms receiving, these life-saving vaccines?

Receiving influenza and Tdap vaccinations during pregnancy is a safe and easy way to improve health outcomes. Please tell your patients today … and tomorrow … and next week ….

Materials in this section are updated as new information and vaccines become available. The Vaccine Education Center staff regularly reviews materials for accuracy.

You should not consider the information in this site to be specific, professional medical advice for your personal health or for your family's personal health. You should not use it to replace any relationship with a physician or other qualified healthcare professional. For medical concerns, including decisions about vaccinations, medications and other treatments, you should always consult your physician or, in serious cases, seek immediate assistance from emergency personnel.