Pregnant Women Can Get Their Flu Shots Without Hysteria

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flu shotWomen in their first trimester who are starting to put together their “to-do” pregnancy list can confidently write “flu shot” at the top. Check the Googlesphere relentlessly as you like, but the latest research indicates that pregnant ladies can seek out the vaccine worry-free — and should.

Reuters reports that pregnant women are more likely to get a severe case of the flu, suffer complications, or even develop pneumonia, than other non-pregnant women their age. The flu is also believed to raise the risk of fetal distress and preterm delivery.

A study of almost 9,000 pregnant women who received the flu shot determined that only two percent had a major birth defect (such as a cleft lip or a malformation of the heart). Such a rate reportedly exactly mirrored the 77,000 women who did not receive the vaccine. Other findings included:

…women who got vaccinated were less likely to suffer a stillbirth (a pregnancy loss after the 20th week): 0.3 percent did, versus 0.6 percent of unvaccinated women.

Their newborns also had a lower death rate: 0.2 percent died soon after birth, compared with 0.4 percent of babies born to unvaccinated moms.

Researchers aren’t necessarily patting themselves on the back about the vaccine saving those 0.2 percent of baby’s lives, but what they are taking away from this data is that the vaccine is safe. So we have another form of preventable health care for pregnant women, but one of which very few are taking adantage of:

Despite recommendations to get the flu shot, most pregnant women do not. In the U.S., only between 10 percent and one-quarter of women have been vaccinated each flu season over the last couple decades, [Dr. Jeanne S. Sheffield]’s team notes.

Reuters reports that most research on this gap reveals concerns about the safety of the baby. But no need to be alarmed, ladies, as you can secure your flu prevention at any trimester — free of the usual flurry of panic that orbits around pregnant women.

(photo: Zametalov/ Shutterstock)