Monday, October 5, 2009

To Take or Not to Take the H1N1 Vaccine

by Eileen Beard, CNM, FNP

This week, the first doses of H1N1 (swine flu) vaccine will begin arriving at midwifery practices around the country. Although government agencies and health care providers are urging pregnant women to get the seasonal flu vaccine as well as the H1N1 flu vaccine, some women remain hesitant. Pregnancy is a time to avoid caffeine, alcohol, and unnecessary medications. So, why make an exception for a new vaccine?

As a certified nurse-midwife and mom of five (plus five step daughters!), I am typically cautious about new products. When it comes to H1N1 flu, however, I am absolutely convinced that vaccination is a must.

Because of the normal changes of pregnancy (for example, decreased ability to fight off infections), pregnant women are especially susceptible to the harmful effects of H1N1 flu. Research consistently shows that pregnant women are at increased risk for serious illness and even death from H1N1 infection and are four times more likely to be hospitalized.

If you’re still on the fence about vaccination, consider this: for the first time ever, a national coalition of eight organizations (including ACNM, March of Dimes, ACOG, and AWHONN) has come together to develop a clear statement about the seriousness of H1N1 flu and the importance of receiving the vaccination. This sends a pretty clear message in favor of heading to your midwife to receive that vaccine.

If one of your worries is thimerosal, a controversial component of vaccines, about half the doses of H1N1 flu vaccine to be released this fall are thimerosal-free and will be prioritized for children and pregnant women. Ultimately, only you can decide what is best for you and your family. I encourage you to give this issue serious consideration and make a decision as an informed health care consumer.

Need more information to make your decision? Check out these helpful resources:

1 comment:

Tina said...

Great reminders! I am currently listening to the Obama Administration's conference call on maternal health and H1N1, and it is imperative to get the message out to pregnant women to get the vaccine!!! An alarming statistic just reported: 28 out of the 484 deaths, or 6%, from H1N1 have been pregnant women, yet as a whole pregnant women represent only 1% of the population. The other interesting fact is that H1N1is disproportionately killing children instead of the elderly, as is usually seen with seasonal flu. The CDC feels this is due to the fact that older people may have some antibodies developed already against this strain, whereas no children have no such antibodies. It is so important to protect your families against what is felt to be a more virulent flu than the seasonal virus.