Is the Flu Vaccine Safe for Pregnant Women?

With flu season around the corner, many are already armoring themselves with a flu vaccination to reduce risk. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that those who can get a flu shot receive one in early fall, before the end of October, if possible. But a recently published study is making pregnant women question if a flu vaccine is still safe.

The study, released in the September issue of Vaccine, found that of a pool of women over the course of two flu seasons, more women who experienced miscarriages received the flu vaccine than those who had healthy pregnancies. However, the “study does not and cannot establish a causal relationship” between the flu vaccine and miscarriage.

Brittany Denny, DO, an obstetrician/gynecologist with ProMedica Physicians, says there are many confounding factors to the observational study of the 500 women. “Correlation does not equal causation,” she explains. “Unless we can establish that A caused B, we just know they are related in time.” In other words, more women with miscarriages received the flu vaccine, but it doesn’t mean that the vaccine caused the miscarriages.

The CDC has recommended a flu vaccine for pregnant women since 2004 and neither the CDC nor the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have changed their stance of recommending a flu vaccine for pregnant women. “We already have a lot of data supporting the safety of the flu vaccine during pregnancy,” says Dr. Denny. “We know that pregnant women are at an increased risk of being hospitalized from the flu and we know that they are at an increased risk of actually dying from the flu. We also have studies that say the flu itself can cause miscarriage. So for all my patients, for my best friends, my sister, I would still say if you are pregnant this flu season, you should definitely still get the flu vaccine.”

“So for all my patients, for my best friends, my sister, I would still say if you are pregnant this flu season, you should definitely still get the flu vaccine.”

According to Dr. Denny, the flu vaccine is good for the mother and baby. “Some of the immunity that a mom establishes from the flu vaccine can be passed onto the baby, and babies can’t be vaccinated for the flu until they are 6 months old, so this is a good way to not only protect yourself, but also your baby.”

It’s understandable that pregnant women would be very conscious of vaccines and medications to ensure they are taking what is safest for their babies, but Dr. Denny assures there’s no reason to worry. “If you’re pregnant and you receive the flu vaccine, I’d say you are doing the best thing for your pregnancy, yourself and your baby.”

Watch Dr. Denny address flu vaccine recommendations for pregnant women in the WTOL 11 video below:  

Find more stories related to healthy pregnancy and infant care.

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