March of Dimes recommends flu shot for pregnant women

The March of Dimes, a nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health, recently urged pregnant women to protect themselves and their unborn babies by getting an influenza vaccine.

Complications from influenza, such as pneumonia, can be serious and even deadly to mothers and their babies. The March of Dimes recommends that pregnant women and women who expect to become pregnant get a flu shot every year.

"Early fall is not too early for pregnant women, and women who expect to become pregnant, to get their flu shot," Siobhan Dolan, a medical advisor to the March of Dimes, said. "The influenza virus poses a serious risk of illness and even death. Babies born to mothers who got their flu shot while pregnant were protected from serious illness with influenza during their first six months of life."

Studies looking at thousands of pregnant women receiving the seasonal flu vaccine found that babies did not have a higher risk of premature birth or developing a birth defect when compared to babies born to women who did not get a vaccine. Researchers found that women who received the flu shot were less likely to experience a stillbirth.

Pregnant women can also lower their risk of catching influenza by limiting contact with others who are sick, washing their hands with soap and water before touching others and by coughing or sneezing into a tissue or arm. Unimmunized pregnant women who develop influenza symptoms such as muscle aches, fever and coughs should contact their health providers immediately to begin treatment.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone six months or older, including pregnant women, receive a vaccine against the influenza virus.