Each year as flu season arrives, pregnant women are urged to get a flu vaccination. With tons of media coverage and stories about vaccination risk, pregnant women often question the risks versus rewards.

According to a study lead by the Infectious Disease Society of America’s Pandemic Influenza Task Force, the flu vaccination protects women from the flu and extends that protection to the infant up to four months after birth. Infants cannot have a flu vaccination until six months of age. Infants born without protective antibodies to the flu are more likely to contract the illness. The flu is a life-threatening condition for infants without the protection of the flu vaccination and infants are not necessarily born with natural immunities to the flu.

A study completed in Utah proves that flu vaccination is important for at least four months after birth. In the study, 27 women either received the flu vaccination or did not. At birth, all babies born to mothers having the flu vaccination showed antibodies to the illness. About 30% of the infants born to mothers who did not have the flu vaccination tested positive for the antibodies. At two months of age, the vaccinated group continued to test positive for flu antibodies in 60% of cases while infants born to unvaccinated mothers showed 0% antibodies. The antibodies were found in 11% of infants at four months of age.

The main concern for pregnant women before getting the flu vaccination is increased risk of miscarriage. According to study authors, there is no increased risk of miscarriage associated with the flu vaccination. When researchers studied nearly 500 women; half of whom received a flu vaccination while the other half skipped vaccination, the same number of women miscarried in both groups. There were no significant differences between the vaccinated group and unvaccinated group.

Researchers and doctors take the stage every flu season to push the importance of getting a flu vaccination while pregnant. The message is clearly getting out because more women are being vaccinated each year, but there is still more room for growth.

Source:  49th Annual Meeting of the Infectious Diseases Society of America. 20 October, 2011.