Influenza vaccine for pregnant women is offered to everyone in Sweden. Read about why and about the advantages and disadvantages of vaccination against influenza during pregnancy.
Pregnant women are at increased risk of severe influensa
The reason why flu vaccine is recommended for pregnant women is that pregnant women are at increased risk of severe influensa compared to non-pregnant women. This risk is particularly high for some types of virus, such as the swine flu (AH1H1). This type of influensa is spread to a greater or lesser extent each year.
Pregnant women are more at risk than their non-pregnant peers to be hospitalised for the flu and to be in intensive care for the flu.
Influensa vaccine is safe for the fetus
Influensa vaccine is safe for the fetus or the expectant child. There is no increased risk of miscarriage, premature birth, low birth weight fetal death or malformations. Some studies suggest a reduced risk of both late miscarriage and fetal death and premature birth in vaccinated compared to unvaccinated.
A protective effect of the flu vaccine for the fetus may be due to the fact that the flu disease itself (especially severe flu that requires hospital care) can be detrimental to the development of the fetus. If the pregnant person is protected against the flu, the fetus is also protected. Alternatively, there may be something else within the pregnant women who choose vaccination that differentiates them from pregnant women who choose no vaccination. Maybe vaccinated pregnant people smoke less? In that case, it may be the factor (the so-called confounding factor) that explains that vaccinated pregnant women tend to have slightly healthier pregnancies.
Why only give the flu vaccine after week 16?
It is mainly during the third trimester that the increased risks of influensa have been seen for the mother. Then you want to wait until the risk of miscarriage is reduced and a routine ultrasound is made. Surely you know that more than 10% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage before week 12? If we were to vaccinate all pregnant women between weeks 6 and 12, more than 10,000 pregnant women would suffer a miscarriage every year in connection with the vaccination and many, many would surely wonder if it had anything to do with the vaccination. Many people would suffer the miscarriage the same day as the vaccination. However, we certainly know that the vaccine itself does not increase the risk of miscarriage based on the experience of vaccinated pregnant women.
Some fetuses have malformations, and this is detected in routine ultrasound in many cases. In order not to become uncertain about whether the malformations are caused by the vaccine, one would like to vaccinate after the ultrasound. However, many pregnant women in the world are vaccinated in the first trimester with the flu vaccine, and no increased risk of birth defects has been seen in them.
However, pregnant women who also have other risk factors for severe influensa (such as chronic heart and lung diseases, diabetes, etc.) are advised to take the vaccine as soon as the programme starts. This is because the benefits of vaccination are so great for that group that they would like to be protected throughout the flu season.
It also means that you who want to vaccinate early in the season, whether you are in week 14 or week 7, can absolutely do it.
Influensa vaccination of pregnant women can protect the newborn baby from influensa
Because the mother is vaccinated against the flu, she will protect her newborn baby from infection in two ways. In part, she herself will be less likely to become ill when the baby is born. Thus, she will not be a risk of infection to the child.
First, vaccination towards the end of pregnancy will result in increased levels of antibodies in the mother during the last trimester. Antibodies that are transmitted to the child via the placenta and give the child an innate protection against influenza during the first months of life (then the antibodies are destroyed and the child must stand for their own protection).
Disadvantages of influensa vaccination of pregnant women
The disadvantages of influensa vaccination are partly that the vaccines are not 100% effective, far from it. You can thus get sick even if you have received a vaccine. The side effects are generally mild, redness and pain at the stinging site and slight fever for a few days.
Should you take more vaccinations when pregnant?
In Sweden there are no official recommendations for other vaccines for pregnant women. In more and more countries, however, pregnant women have been vaccinated against whooping cough. It is safe and effective to protect the newborns from whooping cough before they have received a vaccine themselves. If you want to take a replenishment dose of whooping cough vaccine while pregnant in Sweden, you have to pay for it yourself and go to a vaccination agency. The refill dose also contains diphtheria and tetanus vaccine.