Sunday, 16 August 2009

H1N1 and pregnant women

One of the many lies that pro-lies zygote zealots continue to maintain as a corollary to their belief in human incubators, is that pregnant women's lives should be sacrificed in order to save The Fetus©™. This belief is based on doctrine that claims men's role is to lead - in the Catholic Church for example - and women's is to breed. This manifests itself in the manner that church patriarchs dealt with the case of the pregnant 9 year old girl in Brazil and the comatose Eluana Englaro. In the US, personhood for The Fetus©™ regulations have run roughshod over the rights of women to life-saving medical care.

Normal people don't feel that way fortunately. As the World Health Organization and various public health and safety organizations consider the next steps in containing the H1N1 virus, pregnant women are discussing their options, in view of the high fatality rate that threatens them in particular.

Every time I see an assurance from health authorities that the H1N1 vaccine will be available in a few months, I develop a little knot of dread in the pit of my stomach. I have a big, scary decision to make soon.

I'm pregnant; the baby's due in January. That puts me in one of the high-risk categories for H1N1, and it also puts me on the priority list for the vaccine when it comes. There are excellent reasons to roll up my sleeve and take the shot. H1N1 is a known, serious risk to pregnant women; many have already fallen ill and died.

My immune system was strong before I became pregnant and I have no respiratory problems, but I know (believe me, I know) that pregnancy changes everything. I can't trust this body to act predictably anymore, not for the next six months anyway.

The trouble is, I also have trouble trusting what medical authorities tell me. It's not that I have some irrational fear of medical science in general. Medical science is great. I just returned from a visit to my new family doctor, and I couldn't be happier to have one after searching for five years. I am grateful to live in a country that doesn't have an epidemic of polio or diphtheria, and I know I can thank vaccines for that. Vaccines are up there with porcelain and the printing press on the list of wonderful, civilization-advancing inventions.

But the thing about vaccines -- and with all medical interventions -- is that every one requires an analysis of risk. In most cases, the risk of an adverse reaction to the vaccine is known and is much lower than the risk of not getting the vaccine.

As one of the priority groups for a new vaccine, though, I'll be a guinea pig, and so will my fetus. I'll need to trust that the medical authorities, who are rushing to get this vaccine into production, have conducted enough research to be sure that the risk from the vaccine is lower than the risk of contracting H1N1 and suffering major complications.

Kate Heartfield has a right to be concerned; Fatiha Idrissi Kaitouni in Montréal who contracted the virus during the last month of her pregnancy died and so did another woman in the US. Their babies survived but neither mother had the chance to hold her child in her arms.

Here's the challenge facing epidemiologists: during pregnancy, many elements of a woman's immunological defense system are suppressed so that her body does not reject the fetus. This makes her more vulnerable if exposed to pathogens.

"If we base it on what we know of the 1918, 1957 pandemics, what we know about pre-existing antibody levels to swine influenza in the population, based on that I would say for this particular virus, pregnant women may suffer more serious consequences, especially in the third trimester," she said. "And they should probably seek care early if they have influenza-like illness."

Studies done after the disastrous 1918 Spanish flu - which took its heaviest toll on young adults - showed astonishing death rates among pregnant women, said Dr. Michael Osterholm, an infectious diseases expert at the University of Minnesota.

Skowronski's review paper suggests there were also very high rates of spontaneous abortions during that pandemic - 26 per cent in pregnant women who became infected and 52 per cent among those who went on to develop pneumonia from their infection.

Osterholm explained pregnancy is a precarious state for a woman from an immunological point of view. In order that the mother's body does not reject the fetus, part of the immune system has to be effectively dialled down.

From here.

Fatiha Idrissi Kaitouni was an early childhood educator. In Québec, some school boards are being pro-active and taking measures to ensure that pregnant teachers and other workers can protect themselves from exposure to the virus, as is their right under provincial regulations.


fern hill said...

Wow. What a dilemma.

The fetus fetishists also say that pregnancy is a totally blissful, risk-free condition.

I dunno. If I were in the early stages of a wanted pregnancy and faced either putting myself and future child in an unprecedented experiment or putting myself and perhaps the fetus as well at risk of death from H1N1, I might rethink the timing. Maybe stop this and try again later when more is known.

But that's just me, being all rational and risk-assessing and stuff.

Anonymous said...

And isn't that just like anti-lifers to trash a life because of some unknown variant. Good thing that it 'is just (you)' and does not reflect broader thinking. Good grief!

fern hill said...

Hi, Anonymous,
First sentence: trashing all 'anti-lifers'.

First half of second sentence: oh, just me.

Second half of second sentence: quite right, rationality and risk-assessment certainly does not reflect 'broader thinking'. It's more of an elite thing.

You, on the other hand, would automatically put yourself and future child into a totally unprecedented experiment and/or put yourself and future child at risk of death without trying to get information and making some attempt at assessing your risk. Because of 'some unknown variant' the mysteries of which are vexing some of the brightest medical minds in the world.

Good grief!

Anonymous said...

I am pregnant (by choice) and have decided NOT to get the h1n1 shot. It is quite simple, it still has thimerisol which is a mercury laden preservative in it and I do not want an autistic or retarded baby.

My dr is the person who told me not to, as he feels there was not enough testing and the vaccine was rushed through the fda approval process too quickly.

There is a wierd propaganda thing here- the NYtimes has an article about this lady who got pneumonia as a complication and lost her baby. The problem with this was that they said she had no health complications but was a smoker. Duh? thats a health complication. Why are they being so alarmist?

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