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Pregnant Women and the Flu

There's some intriguing new evidence out today offering pregnant women yet another reason to try to avoid getting the H1N1 "swine flu." A new study suggests that babies born to mothers exposed to the subtype of flu virus causing the swine flu pandemic may be at risk for health problems later in life.

Caleb Finch of the University of Southern California and colleagues studied more than 100,000 people who were born during and around the time of the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic in the United States. That pandemic was caused by a much more dangerous virus than the 2009 H1N1 strain that's currently going around. But it was also an H1N1 subtype. And the bug that's circulating now does appear to be especially dangerous for pregnant women.

The researchers found that men born in the first few months of 1919, which means they were in the second or third trimester during the height of the pandemic, were about 23 percent more likely to have heart disease after the age of 60 than the overall population, the researchers report in today's issue of the Journal of Developmental Origins of Health.

For women, those born in the first few months of 1919 were not significantly more likely to have heart disease. But those born in the second quarter of 1919 -- meaning they were in the first trimester during the height of the pandemic -- were 17 percent more likely to have heart disease, the researchers report.

In addition, the researchers analyzed military records during World War II for 2.7 million men born between 1915 and 1922 and found that average height increased for every year except for the men who were in the womb during the flu pandemic. Those men were slightly shorter on average than those born just a year later or a year before, the researchers found.

Although it remains unclear why babies whose mothers were exposed to the flu would experience health problems later in life, the researchers said it could be a variety of factors. Such babies could be more likely to be born underweight, for example.

Whatever the cause, the researchers say the findings indicate that maternal stress from flu infections can have lingering effects on their offspring, which provides another reason pregnant women should get their flu shots, experts say.

By Rob Stein  |  October 1, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Cardiovascular Health , Influenza , Motherhood  
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Comments

There's some intriguing new evidence out today offering pregnant women yet another reason to try to avoid getting the H1N1 "swine flu."

Yeah, i'm pretty sure pregnant women are already trying to avoid the swine flu...most non-pregnant people are also trying to avoid it. I actually don't know anyone who is actively trying to contract it.

Posted by: smm4c2000 | October 1, 2009 12:29 PM | Report abuse

One problem... is the causative agent the virus itself, or the mother's antibody response to the virus? If it is the latter, the flu shot could cause problems as well, since it triggers an antibody response. In 2007, WAPO reported on emerging research that implicated maternal antibody response in the link between maternal flu exposure and increased risk of schizophrenia in offspring. Article at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/11/23/AR2007112301327.html. Based on this research, I took a calculated risk and did not get a flu shot when I was pregnant during the 2008-2009 flu season. (I have not had the flu since childhood, did not have other children and did not get the flu while pregnant; I now have a healthy baby girl.) I wonder if this research has implications for these issues with H1N1?

Posted by: MHinNC | October 1, 2009 12:53 PM | Report abuse

For those trying the link in my above comment: it will work if you take the period (.) off of the end, as in: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/11/23/AR2007112301327.html

Sorry!

Posted by: MHinNC | October 1, 2009 12:57 PM | Report abuse

It's hard to know exactly what to do when it's all so unpredictable. The one time in my life I got the flu, it was in spite of the shot I'd been talked into because I was pregnant. Go figure.

Posted by: di89 | October 1, 2009 3:45 PM | Report abuse

I'm not sure how many people read this but I wanted to bring up a huge concern of mine about the flu vaccines that are being produced. Most are being produced using thimerasol as an agent to preserve the viruses in the vaccine vial. Thimerasol as a horrible mercury based neurotoxin that hinders brain development. A subset of the population cannot remove this toxin effectively like the general population in which toxicology test are performed. Babies in utero or children who are not able to remove this toxin this is particularly harmful because in hinders and even stops the development of neurons in the brain at a time when proper development is critical. Studies have already been done linking autism in children to thimerasol mercury toxicity that their bodies are unable to remove. I usually would support any effort to prevent the spread of flu, but seeing this article makes me dread a situation where a mother inadvertently causes damage to the development and future of her child. If you are pregnant and are still considering getting the vaccine, request a preservative free single use vaccine. The vaccines that are being produce in larger vials contain thimerasol to preserve the viruses. Be careful and protect your child. Also if you, our someone in your family, show signs of immune suppression (long term sickness, chronic fatigue, or chronic infection) in the months after having a vaccine administered, you may want to look into getting tested for mercury toxicity. Mercury also hinders many important chemical processes in the immune system. If you are like some people, whose bodies are not able to remove the thimerasol based mercury toxin you are susceptible to developing systemic and chronic illness.

Posted by: beike | October 1, 2009 7:59 PM | Report abuse

http://www.fda.gov/downloads/BiologicsBloodVaccines/Vaccines/ApprovedProducts/UCM182242.pdf

As the FDA.gov. shows us, the Novartis flu Vaccine is not tested on children and pregnant women.

Go to page 12. Under 8.1 ..... you will find the information.

Is this good science?

Posted by: resteremo | October 6, 2009 9:48 AM | Report abuse

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