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Fetal Deaths Up Among Unvaccinated Moms in H1N1 Pandemic: Study
Date:1/16/2013

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 16 (HealthDay News) -- Pregnant women were urged to get a flu shot during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, and new evidence supports that advice.

Norwegian researchers have found that vaccination in pregnancy was safe for mother and child, and that fetal deaths were more common among unvaccinated moms-to-be.

Influenza is a serious threat to a pregnant woman and her unborn child, said Dr. Camilla Stoltenberg, director general of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health in Oslo, lead researcher of the new study.

"Our study indicates that influenza during pregnancy was a risk factor for stillbirth during the pandemic in 2009," she said. "We find no indication that pandemic vaccination in the second or third trimester increased the risk of stillbirth."

With this year's flu pummeling many people across the United States, experts say the best way a pregnant woman can protect her unborn baby from flu complications is by getting a flu shot.

"In addition to protecting the mother against severe influenza, the vaccine protects the fetus and the child in the first months after birth, when the child is too young to be vaccinated," Stoltenberg said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a flu shot for everyone over 6 months of age. Besides pregnant women, the CDC says the elderly and anyone with a chronic condition such as asthma or diabetes are especially vulnerable to infection.

For the study, published Jan. 16 in the New England Journal of Medicine, Stoltenberg's team collected data on more than 117,000 women in Norway who were pregnant between 2009 and 2010 -- the time of the H1N1 pandemic. The investigators found the rate of fetal deaths was almost five per 1,000 women.

During the pandemic, 54 percent of the women were vaccinated during their second and third trimester, which greatly reduced their risk of contrac
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