Flu Vaccine Bonus for Babies

Pregnant women getting flu vaccine had babies with better outcomes

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Receiving quality prenatal care means ensuring that you protect both yourself and your unborn child from disease. One recommendation for this is getting the flu vaccine.

A recent study found that pregnant women who received the flu vaccine had babies with better outcomes than women who did not get the vaccine.

The newborns were less likely to have a low birth weight or to be born early if their mothers had been vaccinated against the flu.

Despite these benefits, the overall rate of flu immunization was low among the women studied.

"Ask your OB/GYN about the flu vaccine."

This study, led by Alexandra Legge, BSc, of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, looked at use and effects of the flu vaccine during pregnancy.

The researchers used data from the 12,223 women who gave birth in Nova Scotia between November 1, 2010 and March 31, 2012.

The researchers compared how the women's newborns fared, including only single babies (not twins or other multiples).

Of these women, 16 percent received the flu vaccine while pregnant. These women had about 25 percent lower odds of having a preterm (preemie) baby than women who did not get the vaccine.

Women who received the flu vaccine also had about 27 percent lower odds of having a baby with a low birth weight (less than 5.5 pounds) when compared to women who did not receive the flu vaccine.

"Our findings add to the existing body of evidence that showing that seasonal influenza vaccination during pregnancy not only offers maternal benefits, but may also provide both prenatal benefits to the fetus and postnatal protection to the infant through transplacental antibodies," the researchers wrote.

The researchers found that several groups of women were more or less likely to get the vaccine than others.

Women who lived in a rural area or who had other medical conditions, making them more high risk as obstetric patients, were a little more likely to get the vaccine than women in urban areas or with low-risk pregnancies.

Meanwhile, women who smoked during pregnancy, were single/widowed/divorced or already had children were less likely to get the vaccine than those without these characteristics.

"Despite current guidelines advising all pregnant women to receive the seasonal influenza vaccine, influenza vaccination rates among pregnant women in our cohort were low in the aftermath of the 2009 H1N1 pandemic," the authors wrote.

"This study and others have shown an association between maternal influenza vaccination and improved neonatal outcomes, which supports stronger initiatives to promote vaccination during pregnancy," they wrote.

Andre Hall, MD, an OBGYN at Birth and Women's Care, PA in Fayetteville, NC, said the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that all pregnant women be vaccinated with the flu vaccine.

"However, due to various reasons, including the misconception that the vaccine causes the flu, the vaccination rate remains low," Dr. Hall said.

"The flu vaccine among other vaccines during pregnancy are important for the health of mom and baby," he said.

This study was published January 6 in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. The research did not use external funding.

One author was paid to attend a medical review panel related to meningococcal disease sponsored by Sanofi Pasteur.

Another author has received research funding from Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline, and has done flu vaccine clinical trials for Sanofi, GlaxoSmithKline and Novartis.

Review Date: 
January 8, 2014
Last Updated:
January 8, 2014