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Pregnant moms with the flu pose a risk to their children

A recent study found that some pregnant women with the flu give birth to babies suffering from a variety of problems.

The new study, published in the journal Birth Defects Research, found that pregnant women admitted to an intensive care unit suffering from 2009 H1N1 influenza were more likely to deliver preterm babies and babies with low birth weight and low APGAR scores.

The study also found that pregnant woman who had the flu but were not sick enough to be hospitalized or admitted to the intensive care unit did not see an increase in babies with adverse birth outcomes.

The importance of the flu shot

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that getting a flu shot decreases risk of hospitalization.

CDC researchers looked at records over a six-year period from Australia, Canada, Israel and the U.S. Of about 500 pregnant woman who were hospitalized with the flu, only 13 percent had been vaccinated. After adjusting for the patient's age and other factors, they found that the vaccine lowered the risk of hospitalization by 40 percent.

The CDC also reports that pregnant women are more vulnerable to the flu's effects because being pregnant suppresses the mother's immune system as well as putting stress on the mother's heart and lungs.

Unfounded worries

Some expectant mothers avoid a flu shot under the belief that the vaccine might harm the fetus.

However, multiple studies have found no evidence of increased miscarriages among women who have received a flu shot. Reports of an increase in babies with autism have been unfounded, the CDC reports.

A regular flu vaccine uses a live virus to inoculate the patient, but the vaccine given to pregnant women does not use a live virus, experts say. Concerns over the preservative thimerosal can be addressed by thimerosal-free vaccines.

And while one side effect of any flu vaccine is a weakened, short-lived immune response, doctors stress that any small response is much better for the mother and baby than a full-blown outbreak of the flu.

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