Friday, November 14, 2008

Flu vaccine key for both mom and newborn-to-be

Pregnancy can be an exciting time: Baby names, baby showers and, oh, those cute little baby clothes. It's also a key time to focus on health, both for mom and her newborn-to-be.

Expectant moms know that it is important to eat nutritious food and get preventive health checkups while pregnant. But it's also important to get your flu shot. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends that flu shots — which are "both safe and effective for pregnant women" — be a routine part of prenatal care.

And flu shots are also good for babies whose moms are vaccinated while pregnant, according to a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Babies born to moms who were vaccinated while pregnant had 63 percent fewer cases of flu, the study found. Also a plus, respiratory illnesses among both moms and newborns decreased by 36 percent, meaning the flu shot protected them both. The finding is especially notable, the researchers said, because flu shots aren't licensed for infants under 6 months of age, who have the highest rates of hospitalization from influenza among U.S. children.

Unfortunately, while health professionals have been recommending the flu shot for pregnant women in the United States since 1997, fewer than 15 percent of pregnant women are vaccinated each year — meaning lots of moms and babies are missing out. So if you are pregnant, talk to your health care provider about getting a flu shot. And if you run into any other moms-to-be while you are out shopping for those baby buggies, bibs and so-adorable little shoes, spread the word about getting a flu shot. It will be worth it for both mom and baby when they are healthy and flu-free.

Graphic credit: Courtesy Microsoft ClipArt Gallery

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