Last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended two flu shots, one to protect against the seasonal flu virus and a second to protect against the H1N1 virus, which became prevalent after the seasonal flu vaccines had been manufactured. This year, the seasonal vaccine was designed to protect against three different flu viruses: an H3N2 virus, an influenza B virus, and the 2009 H1N1 virus, so only one shot is needed.
The March of Dimes says pregnant women should make sure they get immunized to protect themselves and their babies. The normal changes from pregnancy put pregnant women at increased risk of the harmful effects of flu infection.
"Based on expert medical opinion, we urge all pregnant women, and women who expect to become pregnant, to get their influenza immunization because the flu poses a serious risk of illness and death during pregnancy," said Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, president of the March of Dimes. "The flu vaccine has been shown to be safe and effective. As an added bonus, during pregnancy, mothers pass on their immunity, protecting babies until they are old enough to receive their own vaccinations."
The March of Dimes was one of 10 leading national health organizations to co-sign a letter urging health care providers recommend the flu vaccine to pregnant women and those who expect to become pregnant.
The 10 organizations - American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM), American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), American Medical Association (AMA), American Nurses Association (ANA), American Pharmacists Association (APhA), Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN), March of Dimes, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) partnered to issue the joint letter to send pregnant women and their providers a clear and consistent message about the importance of getting their flu vaccination. Pregnancy increases the risk of complications of flu, such as bacterial pneumonia and dehydration, which can be serious and even fatal. Pregnancy also can change a woman's immune system, as well as affect her heart and lungs. Pregnant women are more likely to be hospitalized from complications of the flu than non-pregnant women of the same age. Getting vaccinated is the best way pregnant women can protect themselves and their babies from the flu.
Although pregnant women make up only one percent of the U.S. population, they accounted for five percent of the H1N1 deaths in 2009, according to research published in the April 2010 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
In addition to getting immunized against the flu, pregnant women also can protect themselves from the virus by following healthy practices such as washing their hands, using hand sanitizer, limiting exposure to children, avoiding people who are sick, touching their eyes, nose and mouth, and covering their nose and mouth with a tissue when they cough or sneeze. Also, those who live with pregnant women or young children, or are in close contact with them, should be immunized. Pregnant women who develop flu-like symptoms should quickly contact their health care provider so that they can begin treatment immediately.
The March of Dimes is the leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health. With chapters nationwide and its premier event, March for Babies®, the March of Dimes works to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality. For the latest resources and information, visit marchofdimes.com or nacersano.org