Pregnancy can affect a women's immune system, as well as put added stress on her heart and lungs. These factors increase the risk for getting the flu, as well as developing secondary complications such as pneumonia. This can set up a cycle of events that may increase the risk for miscarriage and premature labor. This is why the annual "seasonal" influenza vaccine has been encouraged for pregnant woman to help prevent these potential problems.
WHY SHOULD I CONSIDER THE 2009 H1N1 VACCINE?
The 2009 H1N1 flu has caused more significant health complications in pregnant women than the general population. As of the end of August, the CDC reports that twenty-eight pregnant women have died from complications related to the 2009 H1N1 flu, and another 100 pregnant women had been hospitalized in Intensive Care. Needless to say, this is concerning and is a key reason why pregnant women are encouraged to receive the 2009 H1N1 “flu-shot” (pregnant women can't get the nasal spray -- the inactivated influenza injection is the only option) in order to decrease the risk for their getting the flu, as well as decrease the risk for health complications (pneumonia, others) related to the flu. There is also a side benefit to a pregnant mom’s unborn baby: the antibodies from these types of vaccines cross the placenta and may help to provide her newborn with several months’ protection from the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus. This is especially important since infants less than six months of age do not get the vaccine.
IS THE NEW VACCINE SAFE?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) expects the 2009 H1N1 influenza vaccine to have a safety and side effects profile similar to the regular "seasonal" influenza vaccine, which has a very good record for safety. Vaccine trials on healthy people in the United States and the United Kingdom have gone well without serious adverse effects. From what I can gather, the National Institutes of Health has vaccinated more than 60 pregnant women as part of the 2009 H1N1 vaccine study to see if it was safe and effective. They intend to vaccinate more as part of the ongoing study. Up to now there have been no reports of serious side effects.
I realize this is a tough decision, and one that is very personal. Please speak with your Obstetrician and/or Family Physician, as well as continue to monitor information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (www.cdc.gov) and Discovery Health www.health.discovery.com