2011 Flu Season — March of Dimes Urges Pregnant Women to Get a Flu Shot

Only One Shot Benefits both Moms and Babies

White Plains, New York | Wednesday, September 7, 2011

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Getting a flu shot during pregnancy protects the mom-to-be from what could be a very serious – even fatal – illness and can protect her newborn who is too young to receive his or her own immunization.

All pregnant women should be immunized to protect themselves and their babies, the March of Dimes says, because the normal changes to a pregnant woman’s immune system, heart and lungs put moms-to-be at increased risk of the harmful effects of flu infection.

“The flu vaccine has been shown to be safe and effective. As an added bonus, during pregnancy, mothers pass on their immunity, protecting babies in those early months of life,” said Dr. Alan R. Fleischman, March of Dimes medical director. “We urge all pregnant women, and women who expect to become pregnant, to get their influenza immunization because the flu poses a serious risk of illness and even death during pregnancy.”

Pregnant women accounted for one out of 20 swine flu-related deaths in 2009 and are more likely to be hospitalized for the flu than non-pregnant women. Immunization rates were about 50 percent during the 2010-2011 winter, from about 10 percent the year before., according the US Centers for Disease Control and Preventions Dec. 3 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Pregnancy increases the risk of complications of flu, such as bacterial pneumonia and dehydration, which can be serious and even fatal. Pregnancy also can change a woman’s immune system, as well as affect her heart and lungs. Getting vaccinated at any time during pregnancy is the best way pregnant women can protect themselves and their babies from the flu. Recent research published in PLoS Medicine earlier this year also found that getting a flu shot during pregnancy may offer some protection from having a premature or low birth weight baby. The study looked at births in Georgia from 2004 to 2006 and found that pregnant women who received the flu vaccine and who gave birth during the October through May flu season were 40 percent less likely to have a baby born too soon.

In addition to vaccination, women can lower their risk of becoming infected by observing these common healthy practices:

  • Stay at home if you’re sick
  • Limit contact with others, especially children or people who are sick
  • Don’t kiss anyone on or around the mouth
  • Cough or sneeze into a tissue or your arm
  • Try not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth
  • Wash your hands with soap and water regularly
  • Use hand sanitizers when in offices, public places, etc
  • Thoroughly wash dishes and eating utensils
  • Don’t share dishes, utensils, glasses or toothbrush.

Also, those who live with pregnant women or young children, or are in close contact with them, should be immunized. Pregnant women who develop flu-like symptoms should quickly contact their health care provider so that they can begin treatment immediately.

About March of Dimes

March of Dimes leads the fight for the health of all moms and babies. We support research, lead programs and provide education and advocacy so that every baby can have the best possible start. Building on a successful 80-year legacy of impact and innovation, we empower every mom and every family.

Visit marchofdimes.org or nacersano.org for more information. Visit shareyourstory.org for comfort and support. Find us on Facebook and follow us on Instagram and Twitter.