Pregnant women who have the influenza vaccine cut their risk of having a stillborn baby by more than half.
According to a major new study by the WA Health Department, a simple seasonal flu vaccine could halve the number of stillborns.
The research examined almost 60,000 births in WA and found a 51 per cent higher risk of stillbirth among pregnant women who had not been vaccinated — about 40 per cent of expectant mothers in WA.
The result has prompted the department to revamp its upcoming flu campaign to highlight the potentially life-saving protection the maternal vaccine may offer unborn babies as well as benefits for expectant mothers and newborns.
The study by the department’s communicable disease control directorate and Telethon Kids Institute suggested the risk of death for an unborn baby was linked to expectant mothers getting the virus.
A total of 5076 (8.8%) pregnant women received trivalent influenza vaccine and 377 stillbirths occurred.
There were 5.0 and 3.0 stillbirths per 100 000 pregnancy-days among unvaccinated and vaccinated women, respectively.
After adjustment, stillbirth was 51% less likely among vaccinated vs unvaccinated mothers (aHR, 0.49; 95% confidence interval [CI], .29–.84).
The largest relative reduction in stillbirths was observed for births occurring just after influenza season (aHR, 0.33; 95% CI, .12–.88).
Pregnant women are at higher risk of serious complications from flu, including pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome.
Advocating for change
Catherine Hughes, who lost her baby boy Riley to whooping cough, is now pregnant with her third child and has openly shared she will definitely be getting the flu jab soon.
“I’m definitely having my flu shot in a few weeks – not just to help protect baby in it’s first few weeks of life, but to halve the risk of having a stillbirth.
In a new study of over 60 000 women in WA, the risk of stillbirth was found to be over 50% less if their mum had an immunisation against influenza in pregnancy.
For more information about ways to minimise stillbirth, Still Aware are an excellent resource.
- Riley’s Mum x “
A Mum in the US recently shared her story in the hopes of preventing what happened to her, happening to someone else.
Melissa shared – “Imagine waking up one day to find out that you’ve been asleep for 45 days straight. You’ve had four surgeries, are in a completely different hospital than the one you walked into, and your baby — who you last remember being 25 weeks pregnant with — is now a month old.”
Melissa was diagnosed with H1N1 swine flu. Read her story here.
Study author Annette Regan said the findings supported the safety of influenza vaccination during pregnancy and suggested vaccination protected against stillbirth.
“With more than three million stillbirths worldwide each year, establishing a connection between influenza season, vaccination and stillbirth could have global implications for infant mortality,” she said.
Professor Paul Van Buynder, a director of the Influenza Specialist Group, said the research was exciting and added an important third benefit to having the vaccination in pregnancy.
“We hope this additional information will encourage more pregnant women to have the vaccination and their doctors to recommend it, rather than being scared,” he said.
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