Study: Pregnant Women Suffer Direct Hit from H1N1

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A new study emphasizes the heightened risk of complications from the H1N1 flu pandemic in pregnant women and their unborn babies.

Led by Dr. Andrew C. Miller of the State University of New York Downstate Medical Center and Kings County Hospital Center in Brooklyn, the team analyzed the medical records of 18 pregnant women admitted to the hospital between May 18, 2009 and June 24, 2009. All of the women were given Tamiflu immediately upon arrival at the hospital.

Pregnant women were hit hard by the pandemic because of their already compromised immune systems.   Of the women studied, 3 were admitted into intensive care and 7 of them gave birth while in the hospital; 6 of those births were premature.

Although no congenital defects were found in the babies, two of the infants died.  5 of them suffered from fetal distress syndrome, which significantly lowers fetal heart rate; 4 were delivered by emergency C-section.  Study details are being published by the journal Archives of Internal Medicine.

A similar study was reported by the Lancet in September 2009.  According to the New York Times, pregnant women were 4 times as likely to be admitted to the hospital.  There was also significantly higher risk among these women for developing pneumonia and other secondary complications.  Startlingly, the women who died during this study were all comparatively healthy to begin with.

Last year, in response to growing concern, the Centers for Disease Control proclaimed that pregnant women should begin antiviral therapy as soon as possible after developing symptoms.  The study in the Lancet, however, showed that the women who died did not receive antiviral medication within 48 hours of illness.  Delays ranging from several days to two weeks were typical.

Some experts believe that the resistance to medication by pregnant women is fallout from the thalidomide disaster of the 1960s; subsequent to that tragedy, pregnant women stopped taking medications, sometimes for illnesses that were quite serious (New York Times).

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