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One Less Thing Pregnant Moms Have to Worry About This Winter

Photograph by Twenty20

Past studies have linked both getting the flu during pregnancy and getting the flu shot with an increased risk of autism. So when it comes to getting the vaccine, many expectant moms feel they're damned if they do and damned if they don't.

Turns out, those alarming claims may not be true. A new study published in JAMA Pediatrics reveals that there is no definitive link between an expectant mom getting a viral infection or the vaccine and autism.

Experts examined the health records of nearly 200,000 children born at Kaiser Permanente in Northern California between 2000 and 2010. They took a look at whether the moms had been diagnosed with the flu or had received the flu shot. Less than 1 percent of those moms got sick, and 23 percent of them got the flu shot during pregnancy.

Here's what they found: There is no correlation between having the flu while pregnant and an increased risk of autism. Though they noted that mothers who got the shot during their first trimester had a slightly increased risk, there were other factors that could explain that outcome.

Researchers hope their findings will calm the fears of expecting moms.

A new study published in JAMA Pediatrics reveals that there is no definitive link between an expectant mom getting a viral infection or the vaccine and autism.

"The way we feel people should interpret this is that there is really not any increased risk for autism, and we're recommending no changes in the vaccine policy," said Lisa Croen, the senior author of the study.

Still, this study isn't the final word on the topic. They admit more work needs to be done on how maternal immune responses during pregnancy may be associated with increased risk of autism. They also didn't look at whether the shot these moms received had the preservative thimerosal, which the FDA recommended not be given to children. (Though several studies have found no link between thimerosal and autism.)

For now, the CDC continues to recommend that all pregnant get the flu shot. Still not convinced? The vaccine protects your baby during the first few months of life. And consider the proven risks if you don't get it: The flu is riskier during pregnancy, and contracting the flu does increase the risk of premature birth and low birth weight.

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