The Benefits of Flu Immunization During Pregnancy

In spite of a long-standing recommendation for pregnant women to receive a flu vaccination, up to three-quarters of women who responded to a national survey are unaware or unclear about these recommendations. In addition, only 20 percent of women who are currently pregnant intend to receive a flu shot during the upcoming flu season. The survey was conducted on behalf of the National Women's Health Resource Center and also revealed that some women appeared to question whether the flu shot itself can affect the health of the baby.

Experts say it is critically important that women who are pregnant or planning to conceive during flu season to get a flu vaccination to protect both their health and the health of their baby. Since the flu shot is not recommended for babies under 6 months of age, it is essential for mothers to become immunized to protect the baby against potentially dangerous complications.

When pregnant, women encountering the flu may see serious complications, such as pneumonia and preterm labor, potentially putting both the mother and baby at risk. There’s also evidence that being immunized against the flu offers the baby protection after birth. The baby may receive some antibodies from the mother during pregnancy. If the mother is immune to the flu then the baby is less likely to be exposed to the flu.

Even if mothers have had flu shots in previous years, they’ll need a new one because of different emerging strains of flu that come around every year. The flu shot is made with an inactivated (killed) virus. Pregnant women should not receive the nasal spray version of the flu vaccine since it is made with a live attenuated (weakened) virus.

A New England Journal of Medicine study discovered that mothers who received the flu shot reduced the chance of their baby contracting a respiratory virus with fever by 29 percent. Pregnant women are more likely to be hospitalized from flu complications, especially in the third trimester of pregnancy compared with non-pregnant women of the same age.

Dr. Ashley Roman, Clinical Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gyneclogy, from New York University Langone Medical Center, claims that Influenza is a serious health risk for everyone and it is even more serious for certain risk groups, including pregnant women. Women undergoing pregnancy do not have the same ability to repel the virus, potentially leading to severe pregnancy complications. Dr. Roman urges all of her patients to obtain a flu shot to protect themselves and their baby. She also recommends exploring thimerosal-free options if patients are concerned about vaccine preservatives


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