Background: The effects of maternal influenza infection on the fetus remain unclear. We studied mild influenza and influenza antibodies in relation to birth weight and risks of pre-eclampsia, preterm birth (PTB), and small for gestational age (SGA) birth among the unvaccinated participants in the Norwegian Influenza Pregnancy Cohort.
Methods: Pregnant women attending a routine ultrasound were recruited from four hospitals in Norway shortly after the 2009 A(H1N1) pandemic. The present study was restricted to unvaccinated participants who were pregnant during the pandemic. Information on the participants was obtained through questionnaires and linkage with national registries. Maternal blood samples were collected at delivery. Women with laboratory-confirmed A(H1N1)pdm09 influenza, a clinical diagnosis of influenza, or self-reported influenza during the pandemic were classified as having had influenza. A(H1N1)pdm09-specific antibodies in serum were detected with the hemagglutination-inhibition assay. Detection of antibodies was considered an indicator of infection during the pandemic in the unvaccinated participants. Odds ratios were estimated with logistic regression. Quantile regression was used to estimate differences in the distribution of birth weight.
Results: Among the 1258 women included in this study, there were 37 cases of pre-eclampsia, 41 births were PTB, and 103 births were SGA. 226 women (18.0%) had influenza during the pandemic. The majority of cases did not receive medical care, and only a small proportion (1.3%) of the cases were hospitalized. Thus, the cases consisted primarily of women with mild illness. No significant associations between influenza and risk of pre-eclampsia, PTB, or SGA birth were observed. Detection of A(H1N1)pdm09-specific antibodies was associated with a lower 10th percentile of birth weight, β = - 159 g (95% CI - 309, - 9).
Conclusions: Mild influenza illness during pregnancy was not associated with increased risk of pre-eclampsia, PTB or SGA birth. However, influenza infection during pregnancy may reduce the birth weight of the smallest children.
Keywords: A(H1N1)pdm09; Antibodies; Birth outcomes; Influenza; Pandemic; Pregnancy.