Pregnant ladies, listen up! If you think getting the flu is a bummer, think about your newborn getting it. Not a happy thought! Luckily, according to a study published Monday, pregnant women who get a flu vaccination give their babies some protection too.
Babies under 6 months of age are born with what appears to be some natural protection from the flu, passed on from the mother's antibodies. However, this natural immunity isn't totally protective, which is why pregnant women are widely encouraged to get an annual flu shot to protect themselves and their babies. In the study, researchers found that babies whose mothers were vaccinated during pregnancy had a 41% lower risk of flu infection and a 39% lower risk of hospitalization from flu-like illness compared with babies whose mothers were not vaccinated.
Flu vaccines are not given to children under 6 months of age, so the mother's vaccination is the most effective way to prevent flu in infants along with breast-feeding, which also appears to bolster an infant's immune system. However, the shot is not just a proactive protection for baby — complications from the flu during pregnancy can be life-threatening, especially an infection during the third trimester.
The authors of the accompanying editorial to the study urge: "Maternal influenza vaccination targets two high-risk groups with one vaccine dose — we can't afford not to act."