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Research looks at flu dangers for pregnant moms, babies

Doctor says study shows why flu vaccine is so important during pregnancy

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The flu is more likely to make a pregnant woman severely ill, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Now, a recent study looked at how getting the flu while pregnant might impact a newborn baby.

The study looked at data on more than 3,000 pregnant women -- some who had influenza while pregnant and some who did not.

Researchers found that women who became ill with H1N1 influenza and were admitted to an intensive care unit, were more likely to deliver infants who were preterm, low-weight and scored lower on birth assessments than pregnant moms who never got the flu.

“One of the things that happens during pregnancy is the mom’s immune system is suppressed, which predisposes pregnant women to getting sicker from common things like the flu,” said Dr. Jeffrey Chapa, of Cleveland Clinic, who did not take part in the research. “And for women who become very ill with the flu, outcomes for the baby are actually worse than for those women who got the flu, but didn’t become very ill or who didn’t get the flu at all.” 

Chapa said this study adds to previous research that shows just how dangerous the flu can be for moms and babies, and why a flu vaccine is so important during pregnancy.

He said some pregnant women are apprehensive about getting a flu vaccine over concerns that it may have an adverse effect on the baby, but there is no evidence that shows a flu vaccine can harm a baby.

Chapa said the bigger risk for both moms and their newborn babies is not getting vaccinated to protect against the flu.

“This study shows that not only can the flu vaccine help prevent bad outcomes for the mom, but it also can prevent adverse outcomes for the baby and it should make pregnant women more comfortable with taking the vaccine," he said.

Complete results of the study can be found in Birth Defects Research.