Swine flu jab – is it safe if you’re pregnant?

The latest research on the safety of swine flu inoculations and why pregnant women are at higher risk of the virus

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In a nutshell

Yes, the swine flu jab is safe in pregnancy and is in fact recommended

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The expert view

The swine flu vaccine is now part of the annual flu jab, and is one of the three seasonal flu virus identified worldwide. GP Dr Philippa Kaye says the jab for it is “not only safe in pregnancy, but is recommended”.

The swine flu pandemic in 2009 caused real concern for medical professionals – as well as parents and mums-to-be debating whether to have the jab.

What are the added dangers of flu for mums-to-be?

The main issue for pregnant women is that a lowered immune system means there’s more risk of actually catching the virus (known as the H1N1 virus) in the first place, and the complications of being ill with swine flu can be serious.

Complications for pregnant women include:

  • pneumonia (an infection of the lungs)
  • difficulty breathing
  • dehydration

What does the NHS advise?

Several years on from the initial pandemic, and the NHS still recommends that pregnant women are vaccinated against flu, although US studies show that only around half of mums-to-be have the jabs, because they are worried about their effects.

The swine flu virus is routinely covered in the seasonal flu jab now, along with other strains of flu, so mums opting to have that vaccine should be covered.

Reassuringly, the Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) of the European Medicines Agency has given a clear recommendation that the vaccine Pandemrix can be given safely to all pregnant women.

And the Health Protection Agency points out that the vaccine is safe, while catching flu can lead to problems such as premature birth.

Meanwhile, a study of more than 1,000 pregnant women in the US and Canada between 2009 and 2012 found the mums-to-be who were vaccinated were no more likely to have a miscarriage, a baby born with a birth defect or a baby born smaller than normal, compared with the women who did not get a vaccination.

In another study, from Boston University, researchers looked at 4,191 pregnant women in the US who had either a baby with no health problems, or with one of 41 specific birth defects.

After comparing flu vaccine use in the two groups from 2009-2011, the research revealed that there was “no significant evidence of an increased risk of any specific birth defects”.

Self help

It can also be helpful to follow some practical steps to help stop germs spreading:

  • Stay at home if you are ill
  • Cover your mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing
  • Wash hands often
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose or mouth
  • Get plenty of sleep and drink lots of fluids

Mums on our forum say

“I had mine [swine flu jab] at 13 weeks pregnant and with two children under 4 I cannot afford to get swine flu and have my partner take time off work, and also would not like to pass it on to them.” Katandjohn41

“I have had it and am glad that I have, but I did wait until after I was 12 weeks. I wanted to wait until the baby had finished it’s major developing and also for the safer stage.

“I chose to have the jab after long discussions with two doctors at my surgery, one was a man and his wife had the jab as she was pregnant.

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“She’d done a lot of research into it and the ingredients (for want of a better word!). The swine flu jab is very very similar to the seasonal flu jab which pregnant women have been having for years with no significant side effects, there are (as far as my research told me) –  just a couple of additional items added to the swine flu jab which are not known to be harmful.” – Broodypants

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