With the very real concerns surrounding the flu this winter, many of us are wondering if it is safe for pregnant women to get the flu shot.
Research that was recently presented at the Infectious Diseases Society of America meeting found that getting a flu vaccine during pregnancy greatly improves a child’s chances of having healthy birth outcomes. The researchers examined the effect of having a regular flu vaccination and not the H1N1 vaccination. However, the CDC does recommend that all pregnant women receive the swine flu vaccine as well (CDC, 2009, November).
Why does vaccination help? Pregnant women are especially vulnerable to infectious diseases like the flu because their immune systems are depressed in order to protect their developing babies. Additionally, infants cannot be vaccinated against the flu for the first 6 months of life, so they are vulnerable unless they have received the vaccination second hand while they are in utero (Fox, 2009, October 29).
Specifically, the studies have revealed that flu vaccination during pregnancy at the height of the flu season can reduce an infant’s chances of being hospitalized in the first 6 months of life by up to 85%. Pregnant women who were vaccinated against the flu were also 80% less likely to have a premature birth and 70% less likely to have a baby that was small for gestational age. Their babies, on average, were a half pound heavier than those of unvaccinated women (Fox, 2009, October 29).
Fox, M. (October 29, 2009). When Moms Get Flu Shot, Babies Benefit Too: Study, ABC News. http://abcnews.go.com/Health/wireStory?id=8951864
Centers for Disease Control. 2009 H1N1 Influenza Shots and Pregnant Women: Questions and Answers for Patients. http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/vaccination/pregnant_qa.htm