Moms-to-be who get a seasonal flu shot may be giving their babies' health a big boost, according to a study from Yale University that found hospitalizations due to the flu for infants in the first six months of life was dramatically reduced when mothers received a flu shot during pregnancy.
Published in the December 15, 2010, issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases, the study looked at two groups of infants—those hospitalized at Yale-New Haven Hospital due to influenza and a similar group of infants without influenza. Researchers then compared whether each infant's mother had gotten the flu vaccine during pregnancy.
"When we compared vaccination rates during pregnancy in the study, we found that in the group of infants who didn't have influenza, far more mothers received the influenza vaccine," says Dr. Marietta Vazquez, study coauthor and assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Yale. "In the group of infants studied, giving the vaccine to a woman during pregnancy was 91.5 percent effective in preventing hospitalization due to influenza."
Dr. Vazquez says that the study's findings provide an effective strategy for protecting infants under 6 months old. There is currently no flu vaccine available for this age group.
Still not sure about the flu shot? According to leading health professionals, contracting the flu during pregnancy may increase risk for miscarriage and other health complications. And since pregnancy itself can have a compromising effect on the immune system (making moms-to-be naturally more susceptible to cold and flu viruses), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that all pregnant women to receive a seasonal flu vaccine. Talk to your doctor about the flu vaccine if you haven't had one yet this year—live virus vaccines (i.e., nasal flu spray) are not recommended during pregnancy. Your healthcare provider is best able to determine which vaccine is right for you.