Yet Another Reason Pregnant Women Should Get Flu Shots

It's fairly common knowledge that getting the flu while you're pregnant is bad news, right? According to the CDC, changes in the immune system, heart, and lungs during pregnancy can make women more prone to severe repercussions from influenza. When you're talking about a disease that can cause hospitalizations and even death, opting for a flu shot is a choice many pregnant women don't think twice about.

Interestingly, it seems like there may be another good reason to say yes to the vaccine: a recent study suggests that pregnant women who get a flu shot are less likely to have infants with low birth weight.

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The study, which appears in this week's issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal, was conducted by a team of U.S. and Bangladeshi researchers during flu season in Bangladesh. Basically, researchers discovered that babies born to mothers who received the flu vaccine had a higher average birth weight compared to those in the control group.

Additionally, 45 percent of babies in the unvaccinated group were small for gestational age, as compared to 26 percent in the vaccinated group.

The relationship between flu and fetal growth was only observed during times when the virus was circulating—but the data seems to imply that vaccinating during flu season may protect more than just the mother's health. Low birthweight babies have an increased risk of lifelong health consequences when they're older, including metabolic syndrome, heart disease, and diabetes.

A previous Duke University study also showed that of 1,600 women who gave birth during the 2009-2010 flu season, those who were vaccinated against flu delivered more term babies and also delivered babies who had higher birth weights. Another study that analyzed babies born to mothers who received flu vaccine while pregnant showed that those babies were 50 percent less likely to be hospitalized with flu—compared to infants born to mothers who had not received flu vaccine.

And yet for every 10 pregnant women in the U.S., fewer than 4 get a seasonal flu shot each year. It's funny that issues like breastfeeding vs. formula/vaginal birth vs. C-section remain such hot-button topics ... but no one gets fired up about the possible downside of opting out of a flu shot. To each their own, but getting vaccinated sure seems like a no-brainer choice to me.

Did you get a flu shot when you were pregnant? Do you think all pregnant moms should get one?



Image via Flickr/europedistrict

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