Seasonal Flu Vaccine Protects Both Mom and Baby, Poses No Extra Risk of Birth Defects, Preterm Birth, Experts Say
WHITE PLAINS, NY, SEPT. 20, 2012 -- Getting a “flu” vaccine during pregnancy is safe for both the mother and her unborn baby and can protect both of them from the influenza virus infection and its possible consequences.
Health complications resulting from influenza infection, such as pneumonia, can be serious and even deadly, according to the March of Dimes, which recommends that pregnant women, and women who expect to become pregnant, get an annual “flu” shot.
Recent studies, which looked at thousands of pregnant women who received the seasonal “flu” vaccine, found that their babies did not have a higher risk of being born too soon or developing a birth defect when compared with babies born to women who did not get a vaccine. Also, researchers found that women who were vaccinated were less likely to suffer a stillbirth. One study was published in July in the Journal of the American Medical Association and the other in the September issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
“We urge all pregnant women, and women who expect to become pregnant, to get their influenza immunization because influenza infection poses to them a serious risk of illness and even death,” said Michael Katz, MD, March of Dimes interim medical director. “We hope these latest studies will ease any concerns that getting the “flu” shot may hurt their unborn baby.”
In addition to getting their annual “flu” shot, pregnant women can lower the risk of catching influenza by limiting contact with others who are sick, coughing or sneezing into a tissue or an arm, not touching the eyes, nose and mouth, washing hands with soap and water before touching others, using sanitizers, using hot, soapy water or a dishwasher to wash the dishes and utensils, not sharing the dishes, glasses, utensils or toothbrush. Also, those who live with pregnant women, or are in close contact with them, should be immunized.
Unimmunized pregnant women who develop influenza infection symptoms such as fever, muscle aches, and cough should contact their health providers as soon as possible to begin the treatment.
The March of Dimes is the leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health. With chapters nationwide, the March of Dimes works to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality. For the latest resources and information, visit marchofdimes.com or nacersano.org. Find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.