Flu vaccines for pregnant women may protect against low infant birth weight

According to a study published on Tuesday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, administering influenza vaccinations to pregnant women may protect infants against low birth weight.

The study looked at 340 healthy Bangladeshi expectant mothers and found that babies born to mothers who had received the flu vaccine during times of circulating flu virus weighed approximately seven ounces more than those whose mothers went unvaccinated. Approximately 26 percent of infants in the influenza vaccine group were small for gestational age, compared to 45 percent in the control group, according to Medill Reports.

"When you give the vaccine to pregnant women, the baby on board does a little better," Mark Steinhoff, a doctor at the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center and a co-author of the study, said, according to Medill Reports.

The difference in birth weight was insignificant for infants born when the circulating influenza virus was limited. The results indicate that the vaccine for influenza could be a reasonable addition to routine programs for pregnancy vaccination.

"Healthy young women who are pregnant have a worse time with influenza," Steinhoff said, according to Medill Reports.

There is also evidence that expectant mothers may have serious complications from the flu, pre-term delivery and pregnancy loss. The flu shot has been safely used on expectant mothers for years. The number of pregnant women getting the vaccine in the United States increased from 15 percent in 2009 to approximately 50 percent today.