If you're pregnant during flu season, you've got an extra reason to get a flu shot. Expectant mothers who received the influenza vaccine were less likely to have premature or smaller infants, according to a new study released Tuesday in PLoS Medicine.
Preterm births -- when babies are born after less than 37 weeks of gestation -- are on the rise: From 9.5% in 1981 to 12.8% in 2006. And pregnant women are known to be at greater risk of the flu, which sweeps around the Northern and Southern hemispheres with seasonal regularity. Thus, finding out how much of an effect the influenza virus has on their fetuses, and whether there's a way to reduce the problem, could provide an opportunity to reduce that preterm birth rate.
The researchers surveyed data from the Georgia Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System, looking at 4,168 pregnant women whose infants were born during the 2004-05 and 2005-06 flu seasons. They found that those who had received an influenza vaccine were 72% less likely to have a premature newborn, and that they were 69% less likely to have a baby that was smaller than it should have been, for the amount of time it had spent growing in the womb.