My husband and I have been planning on starting to conceive this September. With all I have been reading regarding the flu strain H1N1, I am nervous about taking a new vaccine (which they suggest in the USA for pregnant women) assuming I become pregnant. On the other hand, risking catching H1N1 seems dangerous as well, as it seems to cause more issues and greater chance of death in a pregnant woman. My question is two-fold:
1) If I become pregnant which is the lesser of two evils--risking the flu or the vaccination?
2)Would the wisest thing be waiting 6-9 months until flu season has passed where I live and we start trying to conceive in the spring?
Answer by Dr. Michel Odent, MD:
Millions of women in the Northern hemisphere might raise similar questions. I am tempted to say that the best advisers would be women your age who live in the Southern hemisphere. They are now at the end of what is usually the flu season. Many of them had a baby recently. I am sure that most of them would tell you that they heard about the so-called 'swine flu' via the media but that they don’t know personally of any woman who had serious problems during pregnancy in relation to the flu. In other words they would advise you to live in peace. As long as serious cases are reported in the newspapers we can conclude that they are exceptionally rare.
Nobody can answer your question about ‘the lesser of two evils’. Usually, in medicine, the ratio of benefits to risks of a new treatment is evaluated through a ‘randomized controlled trial’. This means that the researchers study a population. The first step is to draw lots (i.e. to randomize) in order to establish two groups. One of the groups is given the new treatment. The other group is the control group. Then the follow-up period is as long as possible. The vaccine you’ll be offered has not been evaluated via this golden method.
This is why the answer to your question should be: ‘We don’t know…and we can explain why we don’t know’.
Finally you might let your baby decide when he/she wants to enter this world.
Swine Flu Vaccine Linked to Severe Nerve Disease
It was reported this week that the swine flu vaccine, which is yet unreleased, has been linked to a deadly nerve disease. Senior neurologists in the UK received a confidential letter recently from the British Health Protection Agency detailing the connection. The letter was leaked to the British paper The Daily Mail, resulting in demands to know why this information was not immediately released to the public before millions are set to receive the vaccine in the coming months.
The letter discusses another dangerous swine flu vaccine, released in the US in 1976, that killed more people than the disease it was designed to prevent. In addition to deaths, the 1970s vaccine greatly increased the risk of contracting the nerve disease Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS), which is also the nerve disease of concern in the UK government's letter. "GBS attacks the lining of the nerves, causing paralysis and inability to breathe, and can be fatal." states Mercola.1
Anxious families all over the world have been watching the developing news surrounding the swine flu vaccine, expected to be released sometime before the flu season is in full force in the Northern Hemisphere. Many questions and uncertainties have been raised about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine in preventing the current strain of H1NI, known commonly as the swine flu. Concerned experts, such as Jay Gordon, MD FAAP, have released statements addressing these concerns to help parents better understand the choices facing them this coming winter.
Gordon tells us that "Preventing outbreaks of this '...novel H1N1' influenza may be a mistake of huge proportions." He explains that although, tragically, some deaths from the swine flu are unavoidable, not allowing humans to build a natural resistance to H1N1 while it is still relatively mild "could be really terrible and far outweigh a mass prevention program."2
Gordon states that he will likely not be giving the vaccine to clients in his own pediatric practice, explaining that while this flu is now about as "mild" as it will be, the vaccine is unlikely to have any major benefit. He raises concerns that this strain of H1N1 could return later in a more virulent form and that having any natural immunity to the strain, from its contraction, could be very beneficial in the future. The expected vaccine is unlikely to give one the same long-term benefits in resisting the disease.
Additionally, Gordon points out that he considers, "most seasonal and novel influenza A vaccines, as 'experimental' vaccines", because they have only been tested on very small populations before being released to large masses of people. "Not really the greatest science when we're in that much of a hurry.",3 explains Gordon. Instead he recommends hand washing, good nutrition, hydration, and extra sleep in the prevention and treatment of the flu, as well as some proven herbs and vitamins.
Gordon is not the only MD to be cautious about the application of a hastily tested vaccine. Mothering's own expert Michel Odent points to the study of women in the Southern Hemisphere, where the flu season is already in swing, for clues about how the vaccine should be handled. He calls attention to the idea that, "As long as serious cases are reported in the newspapers we can conclude that they are exceptionally rare.",4 and warns, as does Gordon, that the vaccine that will soon be offered has not been tested as extensively as one would normally expect a vaccine to be.
For families concerned about the contraction of any potentially life-threatening disease, decisions rarely come easily. But having the information needed to make those decisions can, at the very least, bring some sense of comfort. To read Dr. Gordon's full statement on this issue please visit his website . Dr. Michel Odent's advice concerning H1N1 and pregnancy can be found in Mothering's experts section at http://www.mothering.com/h1n1-pregnancy .
1. Dr. Mercola, "Warning: Swine Flu Shot Linked to Killer Nerve Disease". Sept 01, 2009. Accessed Sept 4, 2009. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2009/09/01/Swine-Flu-Shot-Linked-to-Killer-Nerve-Disease.aspx 
2. Jay Gordon, MD, FAAP, "H1N1 Flu Update" par 2. Accessed Sept 4, 2009. http://www.drjaygordon.com/development/news/h1n1update.asp 
3. Jay Gordon, MD, FAAP, "H1N1 Flu Update" par 8. Accessed Sept 4, 2009. http://www.drjaygordon.com/development/news/h1n1update.asp
4. Michel Odent, MD, "H1N1 & Pregnancy". Aug 31, 2009. Accessed Sept 4, 2009. http://www.mothering.com/h1n1-pregnancy