Saturday, January 19, 2013

Pregnancy and the Flu Vaccine

Is it okay for pregnant women to get a flu shot? The answer is “yes”, according to a study conducted in Norway recently. (The research was conducted in Norway because access to health care in Norway is nearly universal, and good records are kept.) The results of the study are published in the New England Journal of Medicine

 The researchers reviewed the outcomes of the pregnancies of over 100,000 women in Norway during 2009 and 2010, about half of whom received the flu vaccine during the second or third trimester (the other half served as the control group). As expected, vaccination during pregnancy reduced the risk of getting the flu by about 70% compared to the control group. Vaccination during pregnancy also appeared to reduce the risk of fetal death slightly, but the reduction was not statistically significant.

Pregnant women tend to suffer more complications of the flu than non-pregnant women, in part because their immune systems are partially suppressed during pregnancy. So it’s important that they understand that they can get a flu shot without harming their babies. In fact, the flu vaccine may be good for the fetus/newborn as well as good for the mother; antibodies produced by the mother can cross the placenta (protecting the fetus) and are found in the mother’s milk (protecting the newborn for up to six months).

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