Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Pregnancy, the Flu and YOU

I know.  How mundane.  All the good topics to discuss and I pick the flu.  BORING.

But the flu affects millions each year.  And, one of the hardest hit populations is pregnant women. Why?  You have that delightful little one “wombing in” that lowers your immune system response.  And, pregnant women suffer from more severe consequences from the flu, such as pneumonia, because of decreased lung volume while pregnant.

There are two types of flu vaccines out there—a nasal mist and injection.  The nasal spray contains LIVE flu viruses, can only be given to people age 2-55 and with no co-existing conditions, such as asthma, lung diseases or PREGNANCY.

Pregnant women cannot take the live vaccine because of risk of contracting the actual flu. Since 2009, the flu shot has contained both the Influenza A virus and the H1N1 (swine flu) virus.   I have seen and treated pregnant women in the ICU from H1N1.  It’s virulent and can be fatal—really nasty stuff.

Some moms worry about thimerosal, a preservative added to vaccines to prevent growth of bacteria and fungus in MULTI-DOSE vials.  Single-dose vials do not contain thimerosal.   Thimerosal has been receiving a lot of press due to reports it was loosely associated with autism.  HOWEVER, no scientific studies have proven this link, and the preservative was used for DECADES before this questionable link.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Obstetrics & Gynecology, the Centers for Disease Control and numerous medical communities—all recommend the use of flu shots to prevent spread of the virus.  For my patients, I highly recommend it.  I took it myself in pregnancy.  Remember, your baby can’t get the flu shot until at least 6 months of age, so if you are protected via immunization, you offer your baby an extra level of protection…and what mom wouldn’t want that?

Dr. Heather Bartos is an OB/GYN on the medical staff at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Denton.

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