Study: H1N1 flu vaccines are safe during pregnancy

A new study published on Tuesday confirmed that giving H1N1 flu vaccines to pregnant women during the swine flu pandemic in 2009 was safe for mothers and their children.

Researchers from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health determined that more than half of all pregnant women in Norway received the H1N1 shot out of 117,347 pregnancies from 2009 to 2010. The study, which was published in The New England Journal of Medicine, found that the vaccine likely reduced the risk of stillbirth and miscarriage, USA Today reports.

Vaccinated pregnant women in the study were 70 percent less likely to develop H1N1 flu than unvaccinated women. Pregnant women who contracted the flu were close to twice as likely to experience stillbirth or miscarriage. The findings are supported by previous research demonstrating the safety of flu vaccines during pregnancy.

"There has been this misconception that getting a flu shot, or a vaccine in general, is risky during pregnancy," Siobhan Dolan, a medical advisor for the March of Dimes, said, according to USA Today. "But it's the flu that poses the greatest risk, not the shot."

Studies show that getting vaccinated against flu during pregnancy can protect a baby for the first few months of its life.

The Norwegian study used a slightly different H1N1 vaccine from the one used in the USA because the Norwegians added an adjuvant immune booster to their vaccine. H1N1 flu vaccines in the U.S. do not contain adjuvants.

Gregory Poland, a vaccine researcher at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, emphasized the importance of getting the flu vaccine.

"We plead with patients to get the vaccine, because we see what is going to happen," Poland said, according to USA Today. "In our hospital right now, we have 80 people critically ill from the flu in the hospital and intensive-care unit. The risks from influenza vaccine are so small that they can't be reliably measured. The risks of flu to mother and baby are very real."

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone over six months of age, including pregnant women, receive an annual flu shot.