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A worse than average flu season

Healthy Mom Healthy Baby

From Siobhan Dolan, MD, MPH, author of Healthy Mom, Healthy Baby.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued its weekly report about influenza this past Friday –nine more pediatric deaths were reported, bringing the total number of pediatric deaths to 29 for this flu season.  This kind of news is every parent’s worst nightmare. Every mother wants to protect her child.

But the good news is that a new study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine this week, providing additional reassurance to pregnant women that the flu vaccine is both safe and effective. The study looked at over 100,000 pregnant women in Norway who received the influenza vaccination and found that being vaccinated reduced the risk of maternal influenza illness. What’s more, women who became ill with influenza were twice as likely to experience a fetal death. So yet another reason for pregnant women to get their flu vaccination—it protects their fetus from 12 weeks until birth.

Previous studies have shown that pregnant women who become ill with influenza are more likely to become seriously ill with complications such as pneumonia, requiring hospitalization and possibly intensive care. For this reason, vaccination and early treatment of pregnant women with influenza-like illness is recommended. Also, newborns of mothers who were vaccinated during pregnancy are also protected, with studies showing they are less likely to get influenza during the first six months of life.

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine, March of Dimes, and CDC all agree—pregnant women should receive an influenza vaccination. Additional information and many resources are available online at: https://www.immunizationforwomen.org/.

I recently watched a football game with a group of friends, and no one, except me, had received their flu shot. Folks told me they didn’t have time, they didn’t know where to get it, and they would just take their chances. For pregnant women, these excuses just don’t hold up: the data are clear that getting your flu shot will protect you and your baby. It’s not too late, and the vaccine is available.

So go get your flu shot!

Dr. Siobhan Dolan is the author of Healthy Mom, Healthy Baby: The Ultimate Pregnancy Guide, which will be published by HarperOne on January 29, 2013. For more information, please visit the book website.

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