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- In September 2017, a study found a link between miscarriage and getting a flu shot during the first trimester of pregnancy.
- It doesn’t prove that the flu shot causes miscarriages.
- It’s also just one preliminary study, so it doesn’t change existing recommendations.
- Doctors say pregnant women should still get the flu shot.
Back in September 2017, a study published in the journal Vaccine discovered a potential connection between miscarriages and getting the flu shot in the first trimester of pregnancy.
The researchers had previously done a similar study to test the safety of the vaccine in women who were pregnant in 2005, 2006, and 2007, NPR reported. They found it was totally safe.
But when the H1N1 pandemic prompted the creation of a new flu vaccine in 2009, the researchers were asked to test the new shot in the same way. This time, they looked at women who were pregnant in 2010, 2011, and 2012. That’s when they discovered the link with miscarriage.
It’s a surprising result – even the study’s lead author told NPR that it was “unexpected.” But it’s important to note that this study can’t and doesn’t prove that the shot actually caused miscarriages. Just because two things appear to be linked, doesn’t mean the one caused the other.
And the most important takeaway is that pregnant women still need to get the flu shot.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) released a statement in response to the study, saying the organization “continues to recommend that all women receive the influenza vaccine. This is particularly important during pregnancy. Influenza vaccination is an essential element of prenatal care.”
There are a couple important reasons why, as the ACOG explains on its website. First, pregnant women are at a higher risk of dying and being hospitalized because of the flu. Having the flu while pregnant also increases the risk of preterm labor and birth. Finally, when a mother gets the shot while she’s still pregnant, flu-fighting antibodies are transferred to her developing baby. These antibodies protect the baby from getting the flu until he or she is old enough to start getting vaccines.
Remember: It takes a lot more than a single study to upend existing recommendations. That’s how science works. Every new finding needs to be looked at in the context of all the evidence that came before it. And, as of now, the evidence overwhelmingly shows that pregnant women should still get the flu shot.
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This post has been updated.