I’ve been wanting to write about doulas, pregnancy and swine flu (also known as H1N1) for a while now. The epidemic has alternately fascinated and frightened me since the first reports of it last Spring.
Lately the hype has died down, although we are in the midst of flu season, the one that world health officials would bring serious deaths and contamination across the US. I’ve noticed an huge increase in public education and awareness campaigns about washing hands, getting vaccinated and staying home from school or work if you are sick. I’ve even seen hand-sanitizer machines installed in public areas like bus and train stations. I’ll leave my thoughts about hand sanitation for another day, but let’s say I’m skeptical about the negative effects (including breeding super-strain versions of viruses).
Today, Women’s E-News published a piece about the 28 pregnant women who have died as a result of swine flu so far, so I decided it was time to delve in to the issue.
From Women’s E-News:
At least 28 pregnant women with H1N1, commonly known as swine flu, died last year in the United States and another 100 were admitted to an intensive care unit through Aug. 21, according to the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, figures. Pregnant women are 7.7 times more likely to die from H1N1 compared with the general population, according to an August 2009 editorial in the medical journal Lancet.
However, pregnant women who get the H1N1 vaccine get sick less often and their babies are less likely to get sick with the flu than babies whose mothers did not get a flu shot, the CDC says.
Those are some scary figures, especially for pregnant women, who are often barraged with information about what could go wrong (see: what to expect when you’re expecting) and lots of fear during that time. Couple that with sensationalist media coverage about how WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE FROM SWINE FLU TOMORROW and you’ve got an unpleasant situation.