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The flu can be especially dangerous for women who are pregnant. NPR's Rebecca Hersher reports that researchers have been studying the flu vaccine in pregnant women and recently they published some unexpected findings.
REBECCA HERSHER, BYLINE: Let's be clear right off the bat. Obstetricians and researchers agree that pregnant women should get the flu shot to protect themselves and their fetuses. Edward Belongia runs the Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Population Health at Wisconsin's Marshfield Clinic.
EDWARD BELONGIA: It's been recognized for a long time, but I think it became particularly apparent during the pandemic that pregnant women were at particular risk for having severe flu complications.
HERSHER: That's the 2009 H1N1 pandemic. Another thing that pandemic did was raise questions at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about how the H1N1 vaccine affects pregnant women. Belongia and his colleagues had studied a previous vaccine and didn't find any safety issues during pregnancy with that one so the CDC asked them to follow up with another study on the new flu shot. They fully expected to get the same results, but...
BELONGIA: This was an unexpected safety signal. This was not what we were looking for.
HERSHER: They found an association between the new flu shot and miscarriage in women who got the flu vaccine during the first trimester of pregnancy. They did not find a causal relationship between the two. The results are very preliminary, and there are lots of reasons why somebody can miscarry.
BELONGIA: Of course, we knew this would be controversial when it's published.
HERSHER: Still they had to publish. That's how science and medicine make progress. Plus...
BELONGIA: I believe the best approach with the public is to be very clear and open and transparent about here's what we know, here are the limitations, here's why we still recommend the flu vaccine during pregnancy.
HERSHER: The overall scientific data still overwhelmingly supports giving the flu shot to pregnant women. It also protects newborn babies who can't get the flu shot until after six months. In reaction to the new study, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists released a statement reminding doctors and pregnant women that flu shots are a, quote, "essential element of prenatal care" and says it's watching the follow-up studies on the topic closely. Women who are concerned should talk to their obstetrician about the best timing for their flu shot. Rebecca Hersher, NPR News.
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