Please help – I am very confused. I am 29 and 21 weeks pregnant. I am very healthy and can never remember getting a flu – just a cold at worst. I don’t want to take the Swine Flu injection in case it hurts the baby. This is our first baby but I don’t want to put their life in danger either.
Congratulations on your pregnancy. The HSE has confirmed that last winter the H1N1 Influenza or Swine Flu virus accounted for 98% of all flu cases seen in Ireland.
It is also expected that the swine flu virus will continue to circulate during this winter and beyond. For this reason, protection against H1N1 is included in this year’s normal seasonal flu vaccine.
You should be aware that Swine Flu vaccines have been put through a rigorous licensing process and are licensed by the European Medicines Agency and the Irish Medicines Board. Clinical tests on the vaccines are being done on an ongoing basis, and millions of doses of these vaccines have been given to people across Europe this year.
People with long term health conditions, people aged 65 and over, carers of these groups, and healthcare workers are advised to get the flu vaccine. Last year, it was also decided that pregnant women should be routinely offered the seasonal flu vaccine
Like seasonal flu vaccines, which have been used for more than 60 years, the Swine Flu vaccine is safe to use in pregnancy. The vaccines are fully licensed, serious side effects are rare and the Swine Flu vaccine cannot give you Swine Flu.
Vaccination during pregnancy may protect the baby and also helps prevent the mother getting flu and passing it on to her baby. The vaccine is also safe for breastfeeding mothers and their babies.
Midwife Susan Mac Nicholas says: “As a health professional, I must state that without question, pregnant women are at increased risk of complications by not taking the Swine flu vaccine. This is why pregnant women are among the at-risk groups being prioritised for vaccination.
The immune system is naturally suppressed in pregnancy. This makes pregnant women more susceptible to all infections, including seasonal and swine flu.
In addition, your respiratory system is compromised in pregnancy as you don’t expand your lungs so much as normal as the baby is pressing on the diaphragm.
Evidence suggests that pregnant women are four times more likely to develop serious complications or be hospitalised from H1N1 virus than non-pregnant women. Complications may include early labour or severe pneumonia. The risk of these complications is higher after 14 weeks of pregnancy and for pregnant women who are at risk of medical complications.
Vaccination during pregnancy may protect the baby and also helps prevent you getting flu and passing it on to your baby.
Perhaps you could talk to your obstetrician or GP for any further information or reassurance but please do note that the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists have appealed to women over 14 weeks pregnant to avail of the vaccine.
Best of luck with the remainder of your pregnancy and with the birth!