(COLUMBUS, Ohio) – For most of us, getting the flu is a miserable inconvenience, but for some it can be dangerous, even deadly. Pregnant women and young babies are among those most at risk for complications from the flu, and while doctors have long recommended flu shots for protection, experts weren’t exactly sure how the shots affect pregnancy.
“We know in normal situations flu shots help us develop antibodies to protect us from the flu virus, but when it comes to understanding exactly how vaccines impact pregnancy, our understanding has been somewhat lacking,” said Lisa Christian, associate professor and researcher from the Institute of Behavioral Medicine Research at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. “So, we launched a study to not only track immune response in expectant mothers, but to see how well protection from the flu vaccine is transferred to the baby.”
In all, researchers followed 141 pregnant women, 91 of whom received a flu shot in the previous year, 50 who had not. “We actually found that those who didn’t get a flu shot had a better initial immune response to the vaccine,” said Christian. “On the other hand, for those who tend to get flu shots year after year, their peak antibody response becomes weakened over time.”
To see how that might affect babies, researchers tested women throughout their pregnancy and, upon delivery, tested blood from the umbilical cord to see how well protection from the flu vaccine had been transferred to the baby while in the womb.
“The good news is, this study showed that the benefits of a flu shot to the baby were not affected in either group,” said Christian. “Women who get a flu shot year after year will likely see their initial antibody response weaken over time, but it’s ultimately not going to affect their babies. Our study found that by the time of delivery, both mom and baby were well protected.”