Pregnancy

Pregnant Women: You Should Get The Flu Shot, It Can Save Your Baby’s Life

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flu shot stillbirthWhen I was pregnant, it was recommended that I get the flu shot but I couldn’t be bothered. That’s because I wasn’t convinced there were any benefits to my unborn child. It’s not that I was against it, it’s just that no one – not even my OB – sat me down and said, “You must get the flu shot, in my professional opinion.” And so I skipped it. (Apparently, pregnant women as a group are reluctant to get the shot.)

But now a new study suggests that the flu vaccine has some major unexpected benefits. Of course, it can protect women from the flu, but it turns out it can do a whole lot more. According to researchers from hospitals in Ottawa, Kingston and Toronto, the vaccine may also significantly lower the risk of premature births, stillbirths and underweight babies. The study also showed that the flu vaccine did not harm the fetus in way.

Researchers studied the records of more than 55,000 Ontario mothers who got the flu shot during the H1N1 pandemic in November 2009 through April 210. (I live in Toronto and I can still remember how everyone, it seemed, was scrambling to get vaccinated – even people who had never before received a flu shot.) They discovered a 34% decreased risk of stillbirths for vaccinated women; a 19% decreased risk for underweight babies; and a 28% decreased risk for premature births.

These numbers are huge. Had I known these stats while I was pregnant, I would not have hesitated one bit to get vaccinated, which is why I think this study will have such a great impact on pregnant women. That said, researchers are quick to point out that flu seasons differ from year to year, and so the risk for pregnant women might be higher in some years than others (as was the case with the H1N1 strain). But it’s a solid first step in debunking some of the myths surrounding the flu shot – especially as it pertains to pregnant women.

(Photo: RioPatuca/Shutterstock)