We all know that certain people are more at risk for infectious diseases than others. Whenever there is a pandemic, the elderly and infants raise the most concern, as their immune systems are the weakest. Few people realize that pregnant women are actually included in this high-risk group, which makes annual immunizations such as the flu vaccine essential to their health. In fact, pregnant women that contract the flu have an increased risk of maternal hospitalization and malformation of their fetus. Infants under six months of age are also at a very high risk for influenza complications, such as bacterial pneumonia. Luckily, when pregnant women receive the influenza vaccine, the antibodies will be shared with their infants. In fact, research shows that these antibodies can exist in the infant for a few months after they are born.
Studies show that pregnant women who received the influenza vaccine were not only protected against the flu for the duration of their pregnancy, but that they were even protecting their infants for up to six months. If you’re pregnant and weighing the advantages and disadvantages of getting vaccines such as those associated with influenza, keep in mind that the influenza vaccine has benefits before, during, and after your pregnancy. Putting something as unnatural in your body as a vaccine when you are carrying a child can be frightening, but do consider the far-reaching benefits of the maternal influenza vaccine.
Among infants who received the flu vaccines through their mothers in the womb, there were fewer cases of influenza than those who did not receive it, boasting a vaccine effectiveness of 63%. Similarly, they had fewer instances of respiratory illnesses.
When you are about to have a baby, you and your unborn child are both at a higher risk for infection than the general population. Since your body is focused on nurturing the growing fetus inside of you, it does not put as much focus on your immune system. Similarly, as your baby’s body works hard at growing, his immune system is not the first thing to finish developing, and he can easily catch fatal infections. As if this isn’t reason enough, getting the maternal flu vaccine will also protect your infant for up to six months after he or she is born, which will put your mind at ease and allow you to focus on the more sentimental moments that you’ll remember forever.
Source: K. Zaman et al: Effectiveness of Maternal Influenza Immunization in Mothers and Infants. The New England Journal of Medicine October 2008