More evidence that the flu vaccine is safe for pregnant women has been released. A new study shows that there is no link between the flu vaccine and the risk of serious birth defects. That's the number one concern that mothers-to-be have when considering getting a flu shot.
The study noted that of nearly 9,000 pregnant women who got the flu shot, about 2 percent had a baby with a major birth defect, such as a malformation in the heart or a cleft lip. That was the same as 77,000 pregnant women who did not get the shot.
Researchers also found that women who got vaccinated were less likely to suffer a stillbirth. Point 3 % did not experience a stillbirth versus point 6 % of un-vaccinated women. Their newborns also had a lower death rate: point two percent died soon after birth, compared with point four percent of babies born to unvaccinated moms.
It's not certain that the flu shot had anything to do with the lower stillbirth, but there may be a link says Dr. Jeanne S. Sheffield, the lead researcher on the work. The flu shot may have prevented a more serious case of the flu. Plus, these findings suggest that the flu shot is at least safe, and possibly has a benefit against stillbirth.
Despite recommendations to get the flu shot, most pregnant women do not. In the U.S., only between 10 percent and one-quarter of women have been vaccinated each flu season over the last couple decades, Sheffield's team notes.
Sheffield noted that "it's amazing" how many women are unaware that the flu itself is considered a risk during pregnancy.
"The flu is a problem in pregnancy," she said. "But we have a vaccine to prevent it. And it's considered safe and effective in any trimester."
A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study published last year found "no unusual patterns" of pregnancy complications or newborn health problems among U.S. women who received the flu shot between 1990 and 2009.