Pregnancy is a time of high alert for women these days. I should know, I’ve had three children, my most recent being born less than five months ago. Everything, from hair dye to caffeine, sex to the occasional glass of wine, and even whether or not I should get a flu vaccine were all things hotly debated. So, when news hit this week that researchers found a “hint of a possible link” between the flu vaccine and miscarriage I didn’t freak out. At. All. And for a few reasons.
The study that found this possible link was not the end all be all truth – or fact – about flu shots potentially causing miscarriages. According to the Washington Post, “The findings suggest an association, not a causal link, and the research is too weak and preliminary, experts said, to change the advice, which is based on a multitude of previous studies, that pregnant women should get a flu vaccine to protect them from influenza, a deadly disease that may cause serious birth defects and miscarriage.”
Influenza poses serious threats to a mother and growing fetus including birth defects and even death. Pregnant women have suppressed immune systems thanks to the autobahn flood of pregnancy hormones, these hormones can change not just mom’s immune system, but also her heart and lungs making fighting off the flu more likely to land her in the hospital. What’s worse is that fevers, one of the main symptoms of influenza, is associated with neural tube defects. Neural tube defects affect the brain, spine, and spinal chord that can cause spina bifida and anencephaly. That’s a lot of bad news that has a mountain of verifiable scientific evidence to back it up.
The Washington Post article also points out that pregnant women are encouraged to get flu shots because they can save lives. The CDC and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend that expecting moms get the flu shot to protect both mom and baby. The best part? That vaccine helps the baby after birth too. Since the flu vaccine is not FDA approved for babies 0 to 6 months, having the shot during pregnancy is the best chance at protecting a newborn infant from getting influenza.
So, while researchers continue to study this “hint of a possible link” between flu shots and miscarriages, I’ll be over here not holding my breath or freaking out.