Although the flu season does not officially start until November and peaks in January, a Danish article in the July 2012 issue of the Journal of American Medical Association reviewed the safety of the H1N1 vaccine and whether it had any adverse effects on the fetus and newborn.

The Center for Disease Control has recommended that all pregnant women receive a flu vaccine during their pregnancy.  I thought it would be helpful to republish an article that I wrote about the H1N1 vaccine three years ago as a review since the topic is once again in the media:

When a human face is placed on the name of a disease, it takes on a completely new meaning.  Such was the case when one of my pregnant patients showed up at the receptionist’s window requesting an emergency appointment.

She was in her mid-thirties, had two children and was in her early third trimester. She reported having a headache, no fever but was coughing for the past four days. Despite taking Tylenol® and over-the-counter medicines, her cough still persisted and she “felt bad”. The receptionist asked if I could see her because the clinic was extremely busy. My instincts immediately said “yes” despite her not having a tell-tale fever.

When the patient walked into the exam room, I immediately requested protective masks. She looked extremely lethargic and was coughing uncontrollably. She stated that her 9 year-old-son had caught “it” first, and now she was affected. I tested her for H1N1 based on CDC’s recommendation but did not wait to get results back before I treated her for what was a presumed diagnosis of a seasonal flu and possible Bronchitis.

Two weeks later, her tests confirmed the 2009 H1N1 virus but she had fully recovered. I was very grateful that we all wore masks and that the medication worked. I advised her that because she’s already had the flu a vaccine was not necessary. Her body has produced antibodies that should protect her as well as her unborn child from any future infections.

There are lessons to be learned from every patient:

  • A pregnant woman can have the H1N1 virus despite not having a fever
  • Older pregnant moms are probably more susceptible to developing pneumonia and should be treated with an antibiotic in addition to antiviral medication
  • Treatment should NOT be delayed until the lab results are available
  • Pregnant women should see their healthcare practitioner immediately if they have a persistent cough, running nose, body aches and/or headaches
  • Most infections resolve if given the proper treatment and attention
  • Check with your local pharmacy to make certain that Tamiflu® is available in the event that you need it

The recent Danish study proved that the H1N1 vaccine was safe for the fetus and had no adverse effects. If you still have more questions regarding a flu vaccine, discuss it with your healthcare provider and please visit http://www.flu.gov.