Pregnancy brings with it a host of new decisions for women to make and is confounded by the fact that they are now making these decisions for two people, themselves and their unborn baby. During flu season it seems as though everywhere you turn institutions and MDs are recommending getting vaccinated against the flu, especially for those who are pregnant, under the age of 5 or over the age of 65. Many women accept this, receive their vaccine and move on, but there are a growing number who would like more information before making the call. One of the platforms of midwifery is informed choice so I am posting this to apprise women of some of the pros and cons of vaccination and some options for protecting themselves if they choose not to vaccinate.
Vaccine Safety and Efficacy
In order to asses the safety and effectiveness of any of the yearly flu vaccine combinations, one must conduct large critically reviewed trials. But according to a NYT article from Nov. 5, 2012, the flu vaccine was "(i)nitially developed for soldiers and approved in 1945, the vaccine was approved for civilian use a year later. In 1960, the surgeon general, Leroy E. Burney recommended vaccinating three high-risk groups: pregnant women, the chronically ill and people 65 and over"(1) Since then it has been difficult to conduct large studies on these 3 groups because denying vaccines to one of the groups is deemed unethical. Some scientists at the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota released a report in October 2012 in which they argue that the benefits of flu vaccination have been overstated and argue for research into better vaccines.(2)
But how does this affect you and your pregnancy? First let's look at the reasons that the CDC and the majority of MDs recommend that pregnant women receive yearly flu vaccinations.
- According to the CDC, the flu is more likely to produce severe symptoms in a pregnant woman. This is because of the decreased immune response pregnancy induces and the extra work load placed on the pregnant woman's heart and lungs.(3)
- Cotnracting the flu during pregnancy can also increase a woman's risk of miscarriage or premature delivery due to the inflammatory response to the virus.
- Their is also an increased incidence of hospitalization, morbidity and mortality.
- The flu shot can provide protection to mother and baby (up to 6 months postpartum).
Then consider some of the risks associated with receiving the vaccine.
- Inactivated vaccines are recommended during pregnancy and have not been proven as effective.
- According to Dr. Mercola, the vaccine can cause an iflammatory immune response and/or suppress your immune system.
- The flu vaccine contains a preservative (often a heavy metal), egg and chicken protiens and neomycin/polymyxin.
- There are not enough large scale studies to prove the safety or efficacy of the flu vaccine during pregnancy.
There are some important things to ask if you decide to get the flu shot during pregnancy. One is that you should ask for the single-dose, preservative-free syringe. And the second is that pregnant women should not be administered the nasal flu vaccine.
Alternatives to Vaccination
Luckliy there are some alternatives that rival the effectiveness of the flu vaccine. One of these options is homeopathy and the other is Chinese herbal medicine. In order for any method to keep you protected each woman needs to also practice these healthy living reccomendations which include:
- Frequently washing your hands. The ONE proven preventive technique.
- Taking Vitamin D3 up to 5000-15000 IU daily and Vit C supplements up to 3000mg daily.
- Maintain adequate hydration. A good rule of thumb is to drink 1/2 your body weight in ounces daily of clear, non-carbonated/sugared fluids.
- Maintain an alkaline state in your body. Consuming fermented foods is a good way to accomplish this.
- Avoid sugar and processed foods as they increase systemic inflammation.
- Exercise regularly to increase the circulation of your immune system components.
In order to understand how homeopathy can help fend off the flu it's best to give a short description of homeopathy for those unfamiliar with this healing modality. The Hahnemann website
gives an accurate overview of Homeopathy. "Homeopathy as we know it today was founded by Samuel Hahnemann, although the principle dates back as far as Hippocrates. In essence, homeopathy is based on the concept that a disease can be cured by infinitesimal doses of a substance that in larger quantities mimics disease symptoms. It is governed by the principle that "like cures like"—if a substance can cause symptoms in a healthy person, then it can cure similar symptoms in a sick person. In sections 100 and 102 of his Organon, Hahnemann describes the use of homeopathics in relation to epidemic disease."(4) One of the most compelling arguments for using homeopathy to combat the flu are the statistics of its use during the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918. Mukash Batra in a Times of India
article from 2009 states that during that pandemic where 50 million people died, the allopathically treated mortality rate was 28.2% while the mortality rate of those treated homeopathically was 1.05%.(5) Lizzia Martinez, a clinically trained homeopath in Austin, TX stated the following: "Homeopathy is a safe and effective form of alternative medicine during pregnancy. It can address both chronic and acute issues in both mother and baby. During flu season, pregnant women may experience extra stress and worry about contracting this viral illness. Fortunately, homeopathy has great resources to help! Influenzinum
(Boiron) is newly prepared every year and consists of flu strains that are predicted by the World Health Organization and the CDC to be the predominant strain that season. Influenzinum
can be used prophylactically, following typical dosing instructions of 1 dose per week for four weeks...thus reducing the susceptibility to the illness and greatly reducing the symptoms if it is contracted. If the full-blown flu is contracted by someone who has not used Influenzinum,
homeopaths have a great many remedies in our pharmacoepia to address and mitigate extreme, acute symptoms."(6) Influenzinum
can be found at People's Pharmacy
in the Austin area.
Chinese medicine is a healing modality dating back centuries. Melissa Light LAc, MSOM of Austin, Texas gave the following information about how to use Chinese medicine during the flu season: "Colds and flu are seen as exterior conditions in traditional Chinese medicine. Exterior conditions such as cold and flu are easier to cure the sooner we notice the symptoms like: sore throat, body aches, runny nose, fatigue, headaches, fever, chills. In Chinese herbal medicine we can use the traditional formula jade screen daily during the cold and flu season as a preventative. We can also use this formula when everyone else in our family or at work are ill. Texas Medicinals manufactures a jade screen tincture for light family acupuncture's chi kids line called b4vax. When you do notice some of the symptoms related to cold and flu, light family acupuncture also carries a cold and flu chi kids tincture called gan Mao ling and is safe for the entire family. Typically our appetites are less with colds and flu, but it is important to keep our fluids high especially if we also have fever. We can get fluids from water, herbal teas, soups, stews, and fresh fruit and vegetable juices. Some great herbal teas for the season are: peppermint, ginger, cayenne red pepper and rose hips. Good foods for boosting the immune system include: cabbage, green peppers, garlic, turnips, broccoli and citrus fruits."(7)
One of the best ways to prevent any illness is to reduce stress. I hope this article aids in your stress reduction by giving you solid alternatives and researched information about preganancy and the flu.
All the best wishes for your optimal health and happiness!
1. Rabin, Roni. 2012. "Reassessing Flu Shots as the Season Draws Near." New York Time's Well Blog, Nov. 5.
2. Osterholm M, et al. Oct. 2012. "The Compelling Need for Game-Changing Influenza Vaccines: An analysis of the influenza vaccine enterprise and recommendations
for the future."
3. "Pregnant Women & Influenza (flu)." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
5. S., Ian. 2009. Homeopathy can prevent, cure swine flu. The Times of India, 18 Aug.
6. Martinez, Lizzie. Classically trained homeopath found online at: www.lizziemartinez.com
7. Light, Mellisa B. LAc, MSOM found online at: lightfamilyacupuncture.com