With all the controversy surrounding vaccines, parents are often left with mixed emotions about immunizing their children, and understandably so. The sheer number of vaccines that are given to kids early in their lives can be cause for consternation for any mother or father.

While the connection between vaccines and autism has been all but refuted by the medical establishment, parents are still left scratching their heads as to what they should do in the best interest of their children.

However, what if the benefits of a vaccine could be achieved without actually giving it to the child? In other words, what if a vaccine given to a mother can help to protect her baby, too?

Naturally Protected

That may very well be the case with flu vaccinations. In an article published on MSNBC.com, doctors found that when expecting mothers were vaccinated against the flu, the benefits seemed to carry over to her unborn child, protecting them in the first 6 months of their lives.

According to the research, which was published in the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine, babies born to mothers who had been vaccinated were less likely to contract the flu or be admitted to the hospital for respiratory illnesses.

Severe Flu Seasons

It has been observed that babies in general have fewer flu symptoms in the first 6 months of their lives when compared to infants between the ages of 6 to 12 months. This is most likely because of the protection afforded to them from their mother's antibodies.

However, during severe flu seasons when viruses can be particularly virulent, these same babies (6 months and under) are at greater risk of hospitalization or death from flu than their older counterparts. These newborns are in fact too young to receive flu vaccines.

Maternal Protection

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended for years that pregnant women be vaccinated against the flu each flu season, mainly to help prevent any flu-related complications during their pregnancy.

Researchers wanted to see if this protective effect might extend to their unborn babies, as well. In order to gain great insight into this possibility, they focused their attention on populations that had in the past been especially vulnerable to respiratory infections.

Following 1,160 pairs of mothers and infants over the course of three flu seasons, they found that when flu season followed a baby's birth, they were 41% less likely to have a lab-confirmed flu infection and 39% less likely to be hospitalized for a flu-like illness if their mothers received flu vaccinations.

These same babies also had higher levels of flu antibodies at birth and at 2 to 3 months of age when compared with infants to mothers who did not receive vaccines.

The data is important in light of the recent H1N1 outbreak, which hit mothers and their newborns during a particularly vulnerable time.

With flu season on the horizon, the CDC is once again recommending that pregnant mothers be vaccinated. If you have questions for concerns, speak with your doctor. For more information, visit the website for the CDC.

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