Flu Shots, Pregnancy, and Baby’s Safety – The Real Story Behind a Controversial CDC Study

It’s easy to think twice about everything during pregnancy. The tiniest change in habits can have a huge impact when there’s a sensitive, growing little one inside you, and medication and vaccinations are far from an exception.

You should never end or begin a new medication or dietary supplement, or receive a new vaccination, during pregnancy without consulting your physician. It’s a general rule of thumb to keep your baby safe from harm.

However, the seasonal flu shot has come under controversy due to a CDC study that seems to have linked miscarriage to vaccination with the H1N1 flu. We understand that this news would scare the pants off of most women, regardless of how safe their doctor has claimed the shot to be.

But there’s a lot of misinformation, not to mention misunderstanding from laypersons and journalists without a medical background.

Let’s clear up the facts on the real story behind pregnancy and flu shots, which are still safe and generally recommended by OB/GYNs.

Science is on your Side

The good news is that we’ve got a great track record when it comes to flu shots and pregnancy. Millions of women have been vaccinated without any evidence of harm to the fetus. Though first trimester research is limited, doctors highly recommend obtaining a flu shot during any stage of pregnancy.

In fact, it’s an important part of you and your baby’s health, as the last thing you’ll want during pregnancy is a nasty case of the flu.

Just make sure you get the flu vaccination and not the live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV), also known as nasal spray flu vaccine, according to medical practitioners. The flu virus found in the vaccine is created from a dead virus and is highly unlikely to infect you with the flu. The nasal spray version uses a live flu virus that is likely to make you ill, and the CDC has recently denounced this vaccine type overall in light of this fact.

So if you’re getting the “flu shot,” just make sure you’re getting the actual shot through a needle. The muscle soreness or low grade-fever that could result will subside in a few days, and pose little to no risk to your pregnancy if you’re healthy.

Keeping The Facts Straight

In September of 2017, a CDC study was released that calculated the odds of spontaneous abortion after obtaining a pH1N1-containing flu vaccine during the first trimester. The sample size used was very small, and the study was conducted using records from the Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD), a medical records database.

The results of the study sent many women running scared from their annual flu shot. The general conclusion was that, according to AAFP.org, the study found that women vaccinated early in pregnancy with a flu vaccine containing the pandemic H1N1 (H1N1pdm09) component who had also received the H1N1pdm09 vaccine component the previous season had an increased risk for spontaneous abortion within the 28 days after vaccination.

Sounds scary, doesn’t it? But Dr. Robyn Horsager-Boehrer, an M.D. of Obstetrics & Gynecology, quickly came forward with an article that further explained this confusing study for those of us without an in-depth understanding of medical research.

The Truth Behind Pregnancy & The Flu Shot

Dr. Horsager-Boehrer was quick to point out the media’s love of attention-grabbing click-bait journalism and anti-vaccination activists’ obsession with any negative vaccination press they can grab. In short, there’s a lot of hype you shouldn’t believe.

The doctor’s place of practice, UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, Texas, and the majority of other medical experts strongly recommend that all pregnant women receive a flu shot, as the benefits far outweigh any potential side effects.

According to Dr. Horsager-Boehrer, there are too many holes in the study to determine whether the first-trimester flu shot was the result of said mothers’ miscarriages.

For starters, 80% of miscarriages occur within the first trimester, so the likelihood of miscarrying at this stage of pregnancy is at it’s highest anyhow.

The data used in the study couldn’t provide a lot of other important information, such as how previously healthy each woman was or how well her pregnancy was progressing. Pertinent timeline notes, such as exactly which week of pregnancy each woman received her flu shot and whether she had been found to be pregnant by a medical professional as apposed to a fallible home pregnancy test, also weren’t taken into account.

Dr. Horsager-Boehrer’s conclusion was that this study wasn’t thorough enough to make any sort of real conclusion between the flu shot and first-trimester spontaneous abortion. In the doctor’s article, her reply to worried moms was this: “This study does not say that you are at increased risk for miscarriage if you are in the first trimester, have a healthy pregnancy, and get a flu shot.”

It’s Generally Safe to Get Vaccinated for Two – But Always Check with your Doc

No matter what you choose for your body while with child, each decision always requires a doctor’s advice when you’re making a change to your body. Your tolerance and potential for risk during pregnancy will depend upon a lot of individual health factors, some of which you might be unaware until after medical testing.

Typically harmless changes in diet, exercise, medicine intake, and even extracurricular activities like air travel can have a completely different impact when you’re pregnant. It’s also entirely possible that your doctor might not recommend a flu shot if you’re not healthy enough to handle the potential side effects, or you’re having a difficult pregnancy.

But if you’re fit as a fiddle and your doc gives the a-ok, a flu shot is the safest way to keep winter bugs at bay during pregnancy.

Please note that advice offered by Intimina may not be relevant to your individual case. For specific concerns regarding your health, always consult your physician or other licensed medical practitioners.

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