Pregnant Women More Susceptible to Flu if Depressed

While the flu season did come earlier this year, it has settled like a black fog throughout the country. For women who are pregnant, the threat of the flu can bring with it increased risks, driving many to receive the flu vaccine. For those pregnant women who are also dealing with depression, the vaccine could be a lifesaver.

Science Daily posted a release that covered a recent study into the effects depression has on pregnant women. One of the findings was that these women tend to have a stronger biological reaction to the seasonal flu vaccine, suggesting that the immune systems in depressed and pregnant women are not functioning as normal.

Researchers believe this immune dysregulation could affect symptom severity among those women who become infected with influenza. In previous studies, researchers established a link between some preterm births and gestational high blood pressure cases and infection or inflammation.

“Inflammatory responses to vaccination do no harm, are mild, and typically go away within a few days. But an extended inflammatory response to vaccination, such as the one seen in women with the most depressive symptoms, isn’t expected, and it serves as a way to estimate how somebody might respond to an actual infection or illness,” said Lisa Christian, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Ohio State University and lead author of the research.

While public health recommendations advise pregnant women to get the seasonal flu shot, only an estimated 12 percent to 13 percent of these women actually get this protection, per data gathered from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Our basic starting question was, do those same relationships between depression and immune function hold during pregnancy?” said Christian, also an investigator in Ohio State’s Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research. “And these studies suggest that they do. We see immune dysregulation during pregnancy due to stress and depression.”

Christian anticipates there may be a change this year, considering the growing concern over the H1N1 flu and doctors recommending their patients receive vaccinations for both this and the seasonal flu. Whether or not physicians will pay attention to a pregnant patient’s mental health is another story.

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