Pregnant women get a flu shot, say researchers from Sweden. New research shows that influenza during pregnancy is worse than the flu vaccine, and the vaccines are part of promoting safe and healthy pregnancies.
It is already known that flu vaccinations do not harm pregnant women. They do not cause an increased risk of miscarriages or pregnancy-related complications. Studies are now being conducted to determine how the vaccinations can affect the unborn child.
The Swedish researchers followed 70,000 women for almost 7 years to see if there was a risk of flu vaccination causing a child to develop autism spectrum disorder (ASD) during pregnancy. ASD and autism are developmental disorders that, according to the National Mental Health Institute, "… affect communication (s) and behavior".
However, pregnant women are at high risk of contracting the flu seriously. And not only can the virus harm the fetus, the fever caused by the flu can also lead to birth defects such as spina bifida or cleft lip.
In the study, 1.1% of the nearly 30,000 children whose mothers did not receive the vaccines developed an ASD; Of the nearly 40,000 children whose mothers were vaccinated during pregnancy, 1% developed ASD.
The researchers followed the children over 6 years. According to Autism Speaks, children are not diagnosed until they are 2 years old, but most are diagnosed after they are 4 years old.
But what are the risks of getting the flu? In 2009, the New York Times reported on a 35-year-old mother who contracted H1N1 flu and became extremely ill. She lost her pregnancy. "She survived the near-failure of her kidneys, then her lungs, which were damaged by continuous high-pressure oxygen, began to collapse," the Times reported. The mother had not been vaccinated because no vaccine against H1N1 flu was available during her pregnancy.
The mother had a caesarean section at 27 weeks and the baby lived 7 minutes. This was an extreme case, but even the regular seasonal flu can be incredibly dangerous for pregnant women.
The flu shot could be even more important this year as COVID-19 continues to spread around the world. Both the flu and COVID-19 have similar initial symptoms: cough, fever, muscle pain, and fatigue. If a pregnant woman develops these symptoms and has not been vaccinated against the flu, caregivers must treat her as if she had COVID-19 until that is ruled out. And it is possible to infect both viruses at the same time.