bee and flowerHi everyone!
If you’ve been to our practice in the last several months for your ob visits, we should have discussed with you flu vaccines and how important it is for you and your baby.
Is it still true? Do you still need the vaccine?
Now, most of the time, we get the flu, we have a high fever, get body aches, feel like death, then we sleep, push the fluids, stay home from work and in about 7-10 days, we are back to our usual selves.
However, sometimes, the flu symptoms become severe. We can’t breathe, we have nausea/vomiting that require admission. We can develop pneumonia. Sometimes, the lungs will shut down, requiring a stay in the ICU with intubation. Sometimes people die. And this is more likely to happen in pregnant women because during pregnancy, our immune system is suppressed.

According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control), in the 2012-2103 flu season, of the 139 hospitalized women of childbearing age ( ages 15-44), 32 of those women were pregnant.

So, that translates to 23% of these ladies were pregnant and were hospitalized with the flu.
And, there were 45 pediatric deaths….That’s right: 45 children DIED from the flu.
Please click here for the CDC link.

OK. So we know that the flu vaccine will decrease our chances of getting the flu ourselves. What about our unborn babies? Will the vaccine increase the risk of death to our unborn babies?

A paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine 2 weeks ago answered this very question. In Norway, where medical care is free and nationalized, they keep great stats.

So here are the Norway stats for the 2009 H1N1 flu season. Hazard ratio refers to how likely we will get something. In this case: 1 is the baseline, higher than 1 means we are more likely to get something, lower than 1 means we’re less likely to get something. Please click NEJM for the link.

  • pregnant women, no exposure to flu, no vaccine: 1 hazard ratio ( baseline risk of fetal death
  • pregnant with the flu: 1.9 hazard ratio ( increased risk of fetal death)
  • pregnant women unvaccinated: 1.25 hazard ratio (increased risk of fetal death)
  • pregnant women vaccinated: 0.88 hazard ratio of fetal death (decreased risk of fetal death)

Bottom line:

Should pregnant women get the flu vaccine? YES.Because it will decrease your risk of getting the flu infection. And because it will decrease your chances of getting severe disease and dying.

Is the vaccine safe for pregnant women? YES. Flu vaccines are non-live vaccines. Some side effects are not unusual such as redness and pain at the injection site and maybe mild fever and body aches afterwards which can be treated safely during pregnancy with Tylenol. See CDC link for flu vaccine safety.

Does the vaccine harm the unborn baby? NO. The Norway study shows no increased risk of fetal death and in fact, may show a decrease in fetal death. In fact, moms who get the flu infection will increase the risk of fetal death.

Who else should get the flu vaccine? Children in the household. Caregivers of your children and unborn child like father, grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. Click CDC for more information about vaccinating your child.

Flu vaccines are still available to our pregnant patients. Please ask the nurses when you come to our office.