Since September, six percent of confirmed deaths from the H1N1 flu (aka the Swine Flu) have been pregnant women. Of people infected with this potentially fatal virus, pregnant women are four times more likely to be hospitalized than the general population, according to the Center for Disease Control.
The H1N1 vaccine is expected to be made available by mid-October, and one of the first “high-risk” groups to have the vaccine available to them will be pregnant women. However, only 15 percent of pregnant women get vaccinated against the seasonal flu each year, which means we can probably expect an equally low number of pregnant women to get the H1N1 vaccine.
Because so many pregnant women stay away from vaccines for fear of potential risks to themselves or their unborn baby, we wanted to find out what these risks are, if any. We spoke with high-risk maternal fetal medicine doctor Dr. Charles Hux, the resident multiples doctor on TLC’s long running show, A Baby Story, about the new vaccine, and it’s possible side effects.
What is the H1N1 vaccination, and how does it combat swine flu?
The H1N1 vaccination contains killed virus. When a person is injected with this vaccine, your body will produce antibodies, which will provide protection from getting the virus.
Is it safe?
The swine flu vaccine is perfectly safe for both the mother and her unborn baby.
Are there any side effects?
The side effects from the H1N1 vaccine are similar to those from the seasonal flu vaccine. Side effects that you may experience should be mild and include soreness, redness, and swelling at the injection site. Certain people may experience muscle aches, headache, low grade fever and nausea. These symptoms should disappear in 1 - 2 days. If a woman is worried about exposure to thimerosal, a preservative used in the H1N1 vaccine, a preservative-free vaccine is available for pregnant women.
If I’m pregnant, do I have to get a vaccine?
The CDC recommends that all pregnant women get the seasonal flu vaccine as well as the H1N1 vaccine. It is very important for all pregnant women to have both of these vaccines to avoid any serious complications from possibly getting the flu this season.
Do pregnant women need both the seasonal flu vaccine and the H1N1 vaccine?
Pregnant women are recommended to receive both the seasonal flu vaccine as well as the H1N1 vaccine. Both vaccines can be given on the same day but should be given in different locations, such as one in the left arm and one in the right arm.
Where can I get the vaccine?
The H1N1 vaccine is available from your local hospital, certain pharmacies and public health care locations.
About Dr. Charles Hux:
Dr. Charles Hux attended Case Western Reserve School of Medicine and completed his residency in obstetrics and gynecology and a fellowship in maternal-fetal medicine at Thomas Jefferson University. He received a master’s degree in genetics from Rutgers University. He maintains a private practice and is primarily affiliated with Monmouth Medical Center. His articles have appeared in American Journal of Obstetrics/Gynecology, Prenatal Diagnosis, New England Journal of Medicine and Genetics. He is the author of the new book, Nine Healthy Months.