Expectant Mothers Should Get Flu Shots

First Posted: Sep 20, 2014 04:21 AM EDT

All pregnant women and those planning to become pregnant must get a flu shot on priority basis.

The latest report by March of Dimes Foundation reveals that just 50 percent of all U.S. expectant mothers get a flu shot each season, leaving nearly thousands of moms-to-be and their babies at an elevated risk of serious illness. 

In a report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it was stated that those pregnant women whose healthcare providers gave them flu shots, had the highest vaccination rates. The CDC authorities recommend that everyone of age six months and older including pregnant women, should consider getting themselves vaccinated annually against the influenza virus.

"Getting a flu shot should be a routine part of prenatal care," said Edward McCabe, MD, March of Dimes chief medical officer. "Health care providers should offer their pregnant patients a flu shot each year and if they don't, then women should ask for it."

It is suggested that pregnant women and those planning to become pregnant should consider getting a flu shot as the normal changes that occur to the pregnant women's immune system, the heart and lungs, put them at a higher risk of the harmful effects of flu infection. And the infants born to those who have received flu shot during pregnancy received good protection from serious illness from influenza during the initial six months of life. Apart from this, they also had a reduced risk of flu related hospitalizations for chronic asthma, heart conditions, diabetes, a weakened immune system and other related health problems.

Studies conducted earlier that looked at thousands of pregnant women who received the seasonal flu vaccine, found that immunized moms did not suffer from greater risk of having preterm babies or having babies with birth defects as compared to babies who were born to women who did not get a vaccine. Also, vaccinated women were likely to experience stillbirth.

Along with the annual flu shot, the pregnant women can reduce their risk of catching influenza by reducing contact with people who are sick, coughing or sneezing into a tissue or an arm, avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth, washing hands with disinfectant before touching others, use hand sanitizers, avoid sharing dishes, glasses, utensils or toothbrush.

Pregnant women should remember that those who develop influenza infection symptoms like fever, muscle aches and cough should contact their health providers at the earliest to begin treatment.

The findings are available in journal Morbidity and Mortality.

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