Can the “swine flu” vaccine harm your fertility or your pregnancy? Here's a closer look at what we know - and don't know about the topic.
By Colette Bouchez
When you're struggling to get pregnant, every headline with the word “infertility” raises a red flag you just can't ignore. The same is true when you're already pregnant and hoping for that healthy baby.
Which is why experts say the recent headlines linking both an increased rate of infertility and pregnancy complications to the new H1N1 “swine flu” vaccine can be so devastating to so many.
“Myths and rumors can be harmful – and when they are aimed at a particularly vulnerable group they can be exceptionally harmful ; in this situation, it is vital that we stop, take a breath and look at the facts before we make any decisions, ,” says Niels Lauersen, MD, medical director of GettingPregnantNow.org
In doing so, says Lauersen, we find there is little evidence to link the vaccine to specific problems in either group. That said, he also cautions that “ A lack of evidence is not necessarily evidence of safety” and that more testing is probably needed to feel totally secure.
To this end, Dr. Anne Schuchat of the US Centers for Disease Control says that more extensive testing of the vaccine on pregnant women is underway. That's the good news. The bad news: Results are not expected anytime soon.
Still, Schuchat says she's confidant that what we know thus far satisfies her safety concerns.
“The trials are being done to provide additional information on dose and so forth, but I think that if I were pregnant I would not wait for the results of those trials, if there was an injectable vaccine available to me,” she recently a press briefing on the H1N1 vaccine.
One reason for the concern, say experts is that pregnant women who do contract the flu – any type of flu – are six times more likely to develop complications and their death rate is greater as well. Still when making your decision whether or not to vaccine, Lauersen says it's important to note that the risk of getting the flu is no higher during pregnancy.
“If you get it, you are more likely to develop complications such as pneumonia – but being pregnant does not, in and of itself, put you in a high risk group,” he says. The same rule, he says, applies to those currently using fertility treatments or trying to get pregnant naturally.
"There is currently no evidence that fertility medications or treatments can reduce your immunity or make you more susceptible to the flu – so I don't think this is something fertility patients have to be concerned about,” he says.
Can H1N1 Vaccine Cause Infertility?
While undergoing fertility treatments may not increase your risk for getting the flu, there is a growing amount of electronic chatter concerning whether or not the flu vaccine can increase your risk of infertility now or in the future.
That chatter recently grew quite loud when a Middle Eastern television network aired a stunning interview with Harvard-trained medical investigator and best selling American author Dr. Leonard Horowitz. Here, Horowitz asserted that vaccines in general, but specifically H1N1 is not only dangerous but , in fact, part of a global conspiracy involving drug companies, governments and even top business moguls, to reduce world population - in part by causing infertility.
As compelling as the interview was, so far, Horowitz has failed to back up his claims with any solid medical research – and that's a fact that Saudi health officials are desperately trying to make known as the vaccine becomes available to its citizens. Dr. Salman, Assistant, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and supervisor of the university hospitals in King Saud University, said recently in an interview with Arab television networks that the vaccine is “not new and dates back to many years been tested a lot of people for years”
Indicating confidence in the vaccine to protect rather than harm, he added that health officials have become accustomed to this kind of doubt whenever a new drug hits the market. He is reported to have stressed that studies show the vaccine is safe – an opinion that is echoed by world health leaders, including those in the United States.
Vaccine Safety & Pregnancy: What You Should Know
While most folks aren't buying into the conspiracy theories – and most medical experts completely dismiss them – it doesn't mean that the H1N1 vaccine is as safe as we would hope. Indeed, there are some recognized risks, particularly in regard to pregnancy, at least one of which is focused on a component known as thimerosal. A derivative of mercury, a heavy metal known to be a neurotoxin particularly damaging to young children, thimerosal it is used in the preparation of some versions of the H1N1 vaccine.
Currently the CDC says these mercury-containing vaccines are safe – even for pregnant women. That said, they also concede they have ordered a fair amount of mercury-free vaccines, including all of the nasal spray and mist forms and some pre-filled syringes.
So, would it be wise for pregnant women and those trying to conceive to seek out the thimerosal -free vaccines? Lauersen is among a growing number of fertility experts who say yes.
“We have no medical studies to show that a mercury-free vaccine will be any safer or any better for pregnant women or women undergoing fertility treatments, but we do know it is good common sense to avoid excessive mercury exposure during these vulnerable times, so if you can get a mercury-free vaccine that you probably should,” he says.
That said, he also cautions women not to automatically forgo the vaccine entirely if the mercury-free version is not available and talk to your doctor before deciding.
“Rely on your your personal health history, your pregnancy/fertility history and your doctor to make a personal health decision on whether this vaccine is right for you,” he says.
Indeed, even the CDC says personal choice is part of the vaccine decision picture. “ This is a voluntary program, we want people to be able to make informed choices about being vaccinated,” says Schuchat .
Other risks associated with the H1N1 vaccine include an increased risk in the sometimes fatal nerve inflammation known as Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS). Some reports claim the vaccine may also increase the risk of autism or make existing symptoms worse, though there is currently no solid medical evidence that this is true.
ummmm...Shannon D : do you have reading comprehension problems? This story clearly states that there are risks with this vaccine - and it discusses those for which there is proof. I am a medical researcher working in this area and unlike your CAPS scare, there is NOT LOTS of concrete information stating the vaccine is bad for an unborn fetus. There is minimal data and at that, not a single case of an unborn baby having been harmed by this vaccine.
Further, the risks associated with infertility have been pretty much laid to rest, and the ones that were there to begin with discussed only the possiblity of infertility occuring within a decade later!
As to the polysorbate 80 - read the study! In order for humans to get a comparitive level (weight-wise) to what the rats got, they would have to take 800 consecutive vaccines! Stop scaring people ! The vaccine has it's faults and limitations,which this article responsibly points out. Your comments are based in fear and rumor - and that doesn't do anyone any good.
Currently the rate of miscarriage and fetal death in the US is slightly over ONE MILLION - with or without a flu vaccine. Moreover the rate of pregnancy loss has decreased - not increased - since the introduction of H1N1. Chances are very high that the women in the study referenced above who lost their babies would have done so with or without vaccine use, simply due to the natural defects in egg and sperm that occur regularly in nature without rhyme or reason. THIS STUDY DOES NOT, REPEAT DOES NOT SHOW CAUSE AND EFFECT. It merely suggests an INVERSE association between the vaccine and fetal death/miscarriage AND PROTECTION FROM THE FLU. Which is a very huge difference from what is suggested in the above post. Moreover, if, as my article suggests you request the nasal form of the vaccine, and not the injection, there are virtually no reported effects linked to miscarriage. PLEASE DO NOT BE FRIGHTENED BY FEAR MONGERS. Instead, talk to your doctor about what is best for you and make your decision with him or her, not based on what you read in any chat room or blog. As with all medications, the H1NI vaccine - or any vaccine - is not right for every person and in some it can do more than good, depending on individual health history. Only your doctor will have the answer that is right for you.
Sharing your concerns with your personal physician is the best advice. All health care decisions should be made in conjunction with your doctor. If you are a pregnant woman concerned about the H1N1 virus and the vaccine, I invite you to print out the original article and the above posts and bring them to your doctor so that together you can decide what is the right path for you. For every drug, every treatment, every surgery, every medical option, every vaccine, there are those who who will benefit and those who will not. Your doctor can help you decide where your true risk factors lie.
As the above article suggests, if you request the nasal form of the vaccine it contains no mercury and is believed to not be associated with any risks of miscarriage. If you have ever seen a pregnant woman lose her baby from a 105 degree fever she developed during the flu, you would know how important it is for those women at risk to seek their doctors advice about whether or not this vaccine is rightf for you.
You stated that there are is no hard evidence that states mercury caues Autism then why was it taken out of the vaccines. If we drop a beaker in Science class that has mercury in it the whole building has to be evacuated in order to properly remove it and doctors inject more mercury in kids than what is in that beaker. Taking some elese research is considered plagerism it isn't your own. Before you post a blog you should do your own research...it might not be what you like though.
Instead of saying mercury has no effect on the body have you spent a day with a highly autistic child or know mom's that agree with you. It might be nothing to you until you are there. I would hate to see you being pregnant and lose your baby because you were afraid of getting a runny nose, a cough for a few days.
Did you also know that there was a research study done by a doctor in California that found that women that lived in areas that were sprayed by pesticides and herbicides increased risk for miscarriage by 60%.