Flu shot and preterm birth risk

No it isn’t flu season yet but believe it or not another one will be upon us in the not too distant future.

So it is timely news for pregnant women to know that it has been found that a pregnant woman who gets a flu shot lowers her risk of preterm delivery.

This was just released by the March of Dimes…it is good news!

Flu shot lowers preterm birth risk

Aside from helping to prevent the miseries of the flu, a flu shot during pregnancy may reduce a woman’s risk of delivering a premature baby. Every year, more than half a million babies are born prematurely in the United States. Since 1981, the premature birth rate has risen by 30 percent. Babies born just a few weeks too soon can face serious health challenges and are at risk of lifelong disabilities.

A new study reviewed data from over 4000 births over a two year time frame in the state of Georgia. Roughly 15% of pregnant women received flu shots. These women who delivered during flu season (defined as October through May) were on average 40% less likely to deliver prematurely, before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy. During the peak flu season (January & February), vaccinated women were 72% less likely to deliver prematurely as opposed to unvaccinated women.  Additionally, babies born during peak flu season to mothers who were vaccinated were 69% less likely to be small for gestational age.

At other times of year (not flu season), the study found no association between flu vaccination and reduced premature birth. Because of this, the researchers believe that it is the vaccine that is offering this protection. And an earlier study found that getting the flu vaccine during pregnancy can even protect your baby after delivery.

When you’re pregnant, your immune system isn’t as quick to respond to illnesses as it was before pregnancy. Your body knows that pregnancy is OK and that it shouldn’t reject your baby. Your body naturally lowers your immune system’s ability to protect you and respond to illnesses so that it can welcome your growing baby. But a lowered immune system means you’re more likely to catch illnesses like the flu. Your lungs and heart are working harder to support you and your baby and this stress on your body also can make it more likely for you to get an illness like the flu.

For these reasons, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Gynecologists and Obstetricians and the March of Dimes all recommend women get vaccinated against the flu during pregnancy.

Tags: flu, flu shot, flu vaccine, influenza, Pregnancy, premature birth, preterm birth

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