Flu shots for pregnant women should top every expectant mom’s to-do list, researchers say

“As soon as we know you are pregnant, you should get a flu shot.”

Flu shots for pregnant women should top every expectant mom’s to-do list, researchers say

Moms-to-be are always encouraged to get the flu shot for their health and the health of their baby. But what happens if you already got a flu shot months or a year ago? Would a new shot even do any good? New research says yes, flu shots for pregnant women—even those who recently got one—have major benefits for them and babies before they can receive their own vaccinations.

“As soon as we know you are pregnant, you should get a flu shot. The sooner the better,” said study co-author Dr. Octavio Ramilo, chief of the infectious diseases division at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, in a new WebMD report.

This is because not only is influenza more serious among pregnant women, but the flu shot also serves to protect babies for months after their births.

In a press release this week, co-author Lisa Christian, associate professor and researcher from Ohio State’s Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research, explained they wanted to get to the bottom of the myth that pregnant women who had gotten a flu shot in the past year don’t need another.

“We launched this study to not only track how prior vaccination affects immune responses in expectant mothers,” she said. “But also to see whether it affects how well antibodies against the flu are transferred from the mother to the baby.”

Previous studies suggested the flu shot was the best way to protect moms and babies—but they also showed people who get a flu shot annually will gradually have lower antibody responses. That made experts wonder whether the infants of moms who got the flu shot every year we're getting enough of those flu fighting antibodies.

Thanks to the new study, we now have more evidence that pregnant women should make getting a flu shot one of their top priorities.

Christian’s team gave the shot to 141 pregnant women. Ninety-one of the women had received a flu shot in the previous year and 50 of them had not. For the moms, the results echoed those found in previous studies of adults: The women who’d had the shot the year before did have weakened antibody responses. But it was a different story for the babies.

“The good news is that we found that the benefits of maternal vaccination for the baby were not affected by prior vaccination in the mothers,” said Christian, whose team tested blood from babies’ umbilical cords. That is especially important as babies can’t get their own shots until they’re six months old, the antibodies we pass down are incredibly important.

In other words, expectant mothers who believed the flu shot wasn’t beneficial enough to justify getting one for their sakes should still get one for their baby’s health.

In many communities, flu shots are available by late August or September and take two weeks to reach full efficacy. As flu season lasts through spring and the effectiveness of the flu vaccine may wear off for people with lower immune systems, talk to your health care provider about whether you should get a booster shot later in the year.

My village lives far away—but my Target baby registry helped them support me from afar

Virtual support was the next best thing to in-person hugs

They say you shouldn't make too many major life transitions at once. But when I was becoming a mama for the first time nearly five years ago, my husband and I also moved to a new town where we didn't know a soul, bought our first house and changed jobs.

To put it mildly, we didn't heed that advice. Luckily, our family and friends still made it feel like such a magical time for us by supporting our every move (literal and otherwise) from afar. They showered us with love through a virtual baby shower (expectant parents nowadays can relate!) featuring the unwrapping of gifts they were able to ship straight to me from my Target registry.

Here's one piece of advice I did take: I registered at Target so I could take advantage of the retailer's benefits for registrants, which include a welcome kit valued over $100, a universal registry function and more. Fast-forward a few years and Target has made the registration perks even better for expectant parents: As of August 2020, they've added a Year of Exclusive Deals, which gives users who also sign up for Target Circle a full year of savings after baby is born on all those new mama essentials, from formula to diapers and beyond.

Honestly, even without the significant perks of a free welcome kit with more than $100 in coupons, additional 15% off coupons to complete the registry and a full year of free returns, registering at Target wasn't a hard sell for me: Even though the experience of shopping for baby items was new, shopping with Target felt like returning home to me… and the comfort of that was such a gift.

And of course, Target's registry plays a vital role right now, as expectant parents everywhere are being forced to cancel in-person baby showers and navigate early parenthood without the help of a hands-on village. A registry like this represents a safe way for communities to come through for new parents. If you're anything like me (or any of the other mamas here at Motherly), you certainly have emotional ties and fond memories associated with Target.

What to register for at Target was also an easy talking point as I began to connect with moms in my new community. I will always remember going on a registry-building spree with my next door neighbor, who had young children of her own. As we walked the aisles of Target back in 2015, she suggested items to add… and we laid the foundation for what has since become one of my most cherished friendships.

Even as I made connections in my new hometown, I was nervous that expecting my first baby wouldn't feel as special as if I were near family and friends. But my loved ones exceeded all expectations by adding the most thoughtful notes to gifts. They hosted a beautiful virtual baby shower and even encouraged me to keep the registry going after my baby made his debut and new needs arose.

In the years since, "community" has taken on a wonderfully complex new meaning for me… and, in these times of social distancing, for the rest of the world. I've come to cherish my newfound friends in our local community alongside those long-time friends who are scattered around the county and my virtual mama friends.

Now, as my friends' families grow, I'm so grateful that I can show them the same love and support I felt during my first pregnancy. I sing the praises of Target's baby registry—especially in light of the pandemic, since I know mamas can do everything from a distance thanks to Target's website and the added benefit of getting trusted reviews and helpful registry checklists.

And now that I'm on the gift-buying side of the equation, I've found new joy in picking thoughtful gifts for my friends. (Because goodness knows Target has something for everyone!)

For my friend who is a fellow runner, I teamed up with a few others to give the jogging stroller she had on her registry.

For my friend who is a bookworm, I helped her start her baby's library with a few books that are also well-loved in our home.

For other friends, I've bundled together complete "sets" with everything they need for bathing or feeding their children.

I know from my own experience that, yes, the registry purchases are so appreciated, but the thoughtfulness and the support they represent means even more. Because although my village may have been distant, the support they showed me was the next best thing to in-person hugs.

Start your own Target Baby Registry here to experience a Year of Benefits including a Year of Exclusive Deals through Target Circle to enjoy for a full year following your baby's arrival, a year of free returns, two 15% off completion coupons and a free welcome kit ($100 value).

This article was sponsored by Target. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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