Sunday, 16 October 2011

Flu Jab: Yes or No?

For weeks I have been debating whether or not to have the flu jab as the risks have always seemed unclear to me. The jab is always recommended for pregnant women, as we are deemed the 'high risk category'. This is apparently because pregnancy lowers your immune system, so if you have the flu, you can have far more serious side effects from it, which can even include death.

I am asthmatic, so have had the flu jab yearly for many years now, but the jab now contains bodies to protect against swine flu, and I have always been quite dubious about this.

I have attempted to do my research on forums, websites and by also talking to health professionals, but it is difficult to get a definitive answer about the risks. Part of this is because pregnant women cannot be used to research the effects of the jab. Combine this with the fact that the swine flu element of the jab has only been around for a couple of years, it is impossible to currently know the long-term effects of the jab on the woman and the child.

After Googling the pros and cons of the jab, I immediately regretted doing so. I came across a lot of American sites full of individual stories of women claiming that they miscarried after having the jab, including women who were 20 weeks along!

I went onto a couple of forums to ask other pregnant women their opinons, and many said they are having the jab as they felt the pros far outweighed the cons. A couple of the forum women had actually lost people to swine flu, and some had already had the jab and said they had experienced no problems so far apart from a sore arm.

The NHS website ( says the following:

"It is recommended that all pregnant women should have the flu vaccine, whatever stage of pregnancy they're in.
This is because there is good evidence that pregnant women have an increased risk of developing complications if they get flu, particularly from the H1N1 strain.
Studies have shown that the flu vaccine can be safely and effectively given during any trimester of pregnancy. The vaccine does not carry risks for either the mother or baby. In fact, studies have shown that mothers who have had the vaccine while pregnant pass some protection to their babies, which lasts for the first few months of their lives

So after taking all of this in, I was still none the wiser! Despite my reservations though, I chose to have the jab, because I work on the frontline, so on any given day can have meetings with many children, professionals and colleagues in offices, schools and people's homes. Due to this, I felt that I had the potential of being exposed to many bug; In the last couple of weeks I have met people with flu and chicken pox without being warned beforehand!

The Bloke also wanted me to have the jab for this very reason, so I went on Friday and as soon as I saw the nurse I offloaded my anxieties, and probably aged her by two years in the process. She repeated the same blurb from the NHS website as I knew she would, and explained that the jab was made of the dead virus so was not harmful. She said she has not known of any of her patients experiencing a miscarriage after the jab, and she also said that the women I had read about could have had other complications or health issues that may have contributed to the miscarriage, which would not be mentioned on those websites.

She could clearly tell that I was still unsure, as she kept telling me to go home and think about it, but I didn't want to waste anymore time exposing myself at work to the bug, and the surgery didn't know how long I would have to wait until they got their next batch of the drug! So I took the plunge, and two days later still have a sore arm, but otherwise feel ok.

If you are debating whether to have the jab, I think the main points to focus on are:

Exposure- do you work with the public or spend a lot of time in busy places such as malls, schools and hospitals? If so you may be at more risk than others.

Do your own research- talk to friends and family about their views, and more importantly talk to your midwife. I would ask them to tell me on a personal level if they would have it if they were pregnant, otherwise they will just give you the NHS spiel.

Risks of not having it- flu can affect pregnant women a lot worse than the average adult. For me, I kept asking myself if I could handle the guilt if I got the flu and something bad happened to my baby. On the other side of this, can the jab do anything to the baby? NHS assures us it does not, but as I said earlier, they have never been able to test the effects on pregnant women.

Your gut- I had to listen to my gut instinct in the end. I do believe our instincts are always right, but we as humans don't always choose to listen to them!

No comments:

Post a Comment