While recent reports have claimed that flu season has reached its peak, experts are warning people to remain vigilant about getting vaccinated. That vigilance is especially important for pregnant women, who are especially susceptible due to a weakened immune system.
Dr. Emily Neri, an obstetrician with Physicians for Women in Lincoln, Nebraska, said that any pregnant woman who thinks she has the flu should see the doctor. Neri’s recommendation is in line with that of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which advises that women — irrespective of what trimester they are in — get vaccinated. On its website, the CDC reminds expecting mothers that the flu vaccine not only protects them but protects their child before and after birth.
A study conducted by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health found that not only is getting a flu vaccine while pregnant safe, but it may also prevent fetal death. The study, which focused on over 113,000 pregnancies, was the largest of its kind. Of those pregnancies, only 492 ended in fetal death. The researchers found that the risk of fetal death was nearly twice as high for women who weren’t vaccinated.
“This is the kind of information we need to provide our patients when discussing that flu vaccine is important for everyone, particularly for pregnant women,” Dr. Geeta Swamy, a researcher at Duke University Medical Center, said.
In 2009, about 50 percent of pregnant women received flu vaccines, up from about 15 percent. Health officials said those numbers need to be higher in order to protect newborns. Since infants can’t get vaccinated until they are six months old, they can still be protected if their mother receives the vaccine.