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Flu Shot May Have Unexpected Benefits for Pregnant Women

By May 23, 2012

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According to a new study, published in the June issue of the American Journal of Public Health, women who received the flu vaccine during the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic were not only protected against the flu, but showed significant positive outcomes in other areas of pregnancy. The study results made big news, with the results reported all over the media, including this article from Science Daily.

The Canadian-based study used population data from the period of November 2009 to April 2010, which spans the H1N1 pandemic of that time period. Over 55,000 births were recording during those months in Ontario, Canada. During that time, 42% of the women in the study received the flu vaccine. Those that got the shot were 34% less likely to have a stillbirth, 28% less likely to deliver before 32 weeks gestation, and 19% less likely to have a low birth weight infant. The team also found no adverse outcomes for mothers or babies after receiving the vaccine.

Those are dramatic numbers, and all of them mean more healthy, live babies. This could be wonderful news for expectant moms. It's important to keep in mind though, that this is not a randomized, controlled study. The results are a correlation, rather than a cause-and-effect relationship. Although the study authors controlled for tobacco use and education levels, they admit there could be other factors that influenced the results.

Still, the numbers are encouraging and certain offer a new avenue of study for researchers. I hope to see many more studies on the long-term benefits of vaccines for pregnant women. It's so encouraging to think that a simple strategy which is already recommended for pregnant women might offer protection from not just a potentially dangerous infection, but the heartbreak of pregnancy loss.

For more on vaccines and infection in pregnancy:
Concerns Over H1N1 Vaccine in Pregnancy
Infections and Pregnancy Loss
MMR During Pregnancy

Photo Steve Cole / Getty Images

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