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Flu Vaccination Rates Rise for Pregnant Women but Still Fall Short

DEC 12, 2016 | EINAV KEET
During pregnancy, women experience changes to their immune systems, heart, and lungs. An expectant mother’s immunity to viral infections may be altered and in some ways suppressed due to hormonal changes, while lung capacity decreases and heart rate increases. As a result, pregnant women infected with the influenza virus may be more prone serious flu symptoms and have an increased risk of complications such as miscarriage, premature birth, and babies with birth defects and low birth weight.
According to the CDC, receiving a flu shot during pregnancy can protect both a mother and her baby throughout pregnancy as well as for several months after birth, as mothers can pass on important antibodies that protect young infants. The agency has conducted several studies on flu vaccine safety in pregnant women, finding no link between the flu shot and pregnancy complications or adverse fetal outcomes. Additional studies have also found no increased risk of miscarriage, pre-eclampsia, premature delivery, or low birth weight infants for women who received the flu vaccine during pregnancy.  A 2014 World Health Organization (WHO) report on the safety of immunization notes the benefits of influenza vaccination for both mothers and newborns, especially when given during the second or third trimester. As such, WHO officials recommend that national immunization policies worldwide include influenza vaccination for pregnant women.
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