The flu shot has traditionally been an important part of a pregnant woman’s prenatal care. This year, the flu shot has become a controversial issue due to a recent study and proposed association between the flu shot and miscarriage. I want to provide some information on the both the study and flu vaccinations so you are knowledgeable and informed.
Most importantly, I want you to know that this study had several limitations and the flu shot remains an important recommendation for all pregnant women.
What was the study all about?
The government-funded study appeared in the medical journal Vaccine and proposed an increased risk of miscarriage for patients who received a flu shot during the early (first) trimester of pregnancy. This proposed increased miscarriage risk only applied to the first 28 days following vaccination, and no association was observed when the flu shot was given in the late first, second or third trimesters. In fact, the authors of this report state that the study does not and cannot actually signify a cause-and-effect relationship between receiving a flu shot and miscarriage.
It should also be noted that in the study, women who have a higher risk of miscarriage at baseline (examples include older pregnant women and tobacco users) may have been more likely to receive the flu shot, which could have caused a false association to appear between flu shot and miscarriage. In addition, an extensive amount of prior research has proven no association between the flu shot and adverse effects on pregnancy.
Should I get a flu shot if I’m pregnant?
Despite this published study, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) continues to recommend the flu shot to all pregnant women. Pregnant women have an increased risk of severe illness and flu-related hospitalization as compared to non-pregnant women. In fact, during the H1N1 flu pandemic in 2009-2010, 12% of pregnancy-related deaths were due to the flu. The flu can also cause fever, which poses its own risks to a developing fetus.
In addition to protecting the pregnant patient, the flu shot also has benefits for the developing baby. When a pregnant mother receives the flu shot, protection is passed to the fetus. This is the best way to protect your infant from the flu for the first few months of his or her life, since a flu vaccine is not approved for babies less than six months old.
Considering all of this information, the current medical recommendation has remained the same – encourage influenza vaccination for all pregnant women as a routine part of prenatal care. Influenza poses an increased risk of serious illness and even death to pregnant mothers, making the flu shot extremely important.
Protect yourself and your baby – get your flu shot this year!
For more information on the flu shot in pregnancy, please visit the following websites: