Dealing With the Swine Flu Threat During Pregnancy

It’s officially a pandemic and honestly, I’m a little scared. River is only 8 months old and in babies and pregnant women, swine flu can be very serious. The pandemic has taken 29 lives in the UK so far, (with the majority of these cases seeing underlying health issues), including a pregnant woman, a baby and children.

A report in US News, “Dealing with the Swine Flu Threat During Pregnancy” brought up some salient points which every pregnant woman needs to know about.

Firstly, pregnant women and children have been advised to get the H1N1 vaccination when it comes out in the next month or so, but the question is should pregnant women and children be one of the first or last to receive this vaccination? The vaccination is so new that this would effectively be a mass drugs trial to which we do not definitely know the outcome. “Just today, public health experts said that there’s no way to know if any rare side effects will occur in the new vaccine until millions of people are vaccinated. Those unknowns would make an expectant mom especially nervous.” Deborah Kotz, US News

Secondly, flu vaccinations contain thimerosal, a mercury-containing preservative that was banished from other childhood vaccines several years ago but is still used in most flu vaccines.

Studies on mercury have shown that this element passes into the brain and remains there. Mercury can have profound effects on a developping fetus, which is why pregnant women are advised not to eat shellfish, tuna, shark, mackerel, king and tilefish. (A good pregnancy diet and exercise should take this into account, so if you are following a specific pregnancy fitness program, you should be safe.)

There are thimerosal-free versions of the vaccine available but you may struggle to find a doctor who stocks this.

“John Iskander, the previous head of immunization safety at the CDC, told me last fall that the reason the agency doesn’t recommend thimerosal-free vaccines is because “there’s still not enough women receiving the flu vaccine, and we don’t want to throw up another barrier in the vaccination process.” ” Deborah Kotz, US News

Lastly, pregnant women who have been exposed to someone who has the virus should get the antiviral drug Tamiflu. This advice does not apply to non-pregnant women (or men in fact!).

The best thing you can do to make sure you stay healthy and fit during pregnancy is take proper precautions. Always wash your hands after being in a public place and it’s worth carrying a bottle of hand sanitizer in your handbag for occasions when you are out and there’s no access to a washbasin. Make sure your children have good hand hygiene too.

If you are pregnant and you do have symptoms, contact your GP straight awa

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