Chances Of Stillbirth Decreased With Flu Vaccination, Study Suggests

Getting the flu vaccine may actually help expecting moms have safer pregnancies

A recent Australian study suggests that the chances of having a stillborn decrease if women get the seasonal flu vaccine while pregnant. Researchers gathered data on 5,100 expecting moms who did get the flu shot and 53,000 women who didn’t receive it while pregnant.

The results were interesting: women who received inoculation were 51% less likely to have a stillbirth. While the amount of stillborn infants in the study population remained relatively small—337 occurred out of the 58,100—the evidence suggested that babies were more likely to thrive in the womb if the mother had gotten the flu vaccine.

Lead study author Annette Regan of the Western Australia Department of Health and the University of Western Australia in Perth said, “Pregnant women should be reassured that flu vaccine does not increase the risk of poor birth outcomes for the baby and in fact, getting a flu shot during pregnancy can reduce their risk of having a stillbirth.”

The theory is that the flu vaccination reduces the odds of the mother having a flu infection while pregnant, which is believed to be associated with stillbirths. However, Regan adds that scientists are still unsure exactly how vaccinations protect against stillbirth.

Having the flu while pregnant can lead to preterm labour and premature births. It can even lead to birth defects if the mother gets the flu early in the pregnancy.

Often women fear that getting the flu shot will be unsafe for their baby and despite doctors recommending the shot to protect the mother and her growing baby, less than half of women do. 

The data reviewed by Regan and her colleagues found that women were more likely to get flu shots if they had pre-existing medical problems, had developed complications during pregnancy or if they were older and wealthier.

More data will need to be collected to determine if getting the flu shot at a certain time during the pregnancy will influence the odds of preventing stillbirth. 

Thankfully the odds of a pregnancy ending in stillbirth happens less than 1% of the time. It’s often caused by the placenta separating from the uterine wall before the delivery or by genetic abnormalities. Hopefully this research and further studies will bring more clarity and knoweldge to the discussion around pregnancy and lead to more healthy, happy babies.

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