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November 30, 2021

Vaccination in pregnancy, before and beyond

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Since the hippies first arrived in the late ’60s, one persisting cultural aspiration around here has been ‘to live as naturally as possible’. This aim can take extreme forms.

To a doctor, some demands can be confronting. In particular, the expectations of women around pregnancy and birth have a built-in resistance to medicines, vaccines and even routine preventative testing. With this history, it’s little wonder that our community has a very reluctant uptake and acceptance of the need for the COVID vaccine. Pregnant women are caught in an urgent dilemma – to vaccinate or not to vaccinate?

My adult son told me of his friends who are expecting, or thinking about pregnancy, and are concerned about getting vaccinated. This news did not greatly surprise me because natural pregnancy and birth have long been part of our Byron and Mullum culture.

In all the hurly-burly about vaccination, I haven’t noticed much attention given to this cohort. But it seems that many women in the reproductive stage of their lives harbour deep reservations and are steering clear of vaccines altogether. But what of medical advice? Some nurses say ‘you should talk it over with your doctor’ but that is no guarantee of consistent counsel.

Current advice

Looking overseas to places with more in-your-face experience of this modern scourge, the English College of Obstetricians recommends COVID-19 vaccination for pregnant women.

Closer to home, Dr Vijay Roach, President of the Australian and NZ College of Obstetricians, has said, ‘We want to reassure pregnant women that COVID vaccines are safe and effective. The risk of severe outcomes from COVID-19 is significantly higher for pregnant women and their unborn babies. It’s critical that pregnant women, their midwives and doctors, are aware of this clear advice and that pregnant women have access to a vaccine’.

The advice is consistent across borders, but suspicions linger among some people as to whether they can trust the word of conservative organisations that have been historically unsupportive of natural methods, such as water birth.

My informants in and outside the health system say that a sizeable cohort of pregnant and breastfeeding women generally consider the vaccine risk too significant. Also, those women considering pregnancy fear that a COVID vaccine may increase the risk of infertility or miscarriage. According to the College, the numbers of vaccinated pregnant women are still worryingly low, at around 15 per cent.

This doctor has moved out of orbit, and can’t give up-to-date pregnancy advice, but still cares for you across a generation of time. Someone currently in the game is Dr Jenny Dowd, an obstetrician with 30 years of experience. She wrote in The Guardian, a paper you can trust, ‘Vaccination has made me reassess my advice to pregnant patients. Usually known for my forthright opinion, I have altered my approach to spend time trying to understand my patients’ vaccine fears’.

The science is still developing, and that goes with rapidly changing advice. Political purposes compound the confusion. But let’s be real. Less than two years has not given science much time to amass sufficient data, so vax hesitation persisting in women of reproductive age is very understandable.

However, the current figures relating to SARS-Cov-2 infection are pretty alarming. One in six critically ill COVID-19 patients is an unvaccinated pregnant woman. Of twenty pregnant women requiring invasive intensive care, 19 were not double vaccinated. Something to understand clearly, intensive care for COVID-19 is a medical treatment you wouldn’t wish on anybody, especially a pregnant woman.

Pregnancy. (file pic)

Affect on fertility

The scientific consensus, at present, is that the COVID-19 vaccines do not affect fertility or the chance of a normal pregnancy and does not cause miscarriage. It is safe for breastfeeding women and can be given at any stage of pregnancy. It may provide some immunity to the unborn as well, and reduces the chance of premature birth.

All that a reproductive woman can reasonably do is balance the small risks and more significant benefits of the vaccine against the known risks that go with serious illness.

Premature labour

Last but not least, severe COVID-19 infection is known to increase the risk of premature labour. Our Byron bubble has been largely untouched by the spread of COVID owing to public health order restrictions and luck. But that karma may change very soon as the locks come off and contagious people travel here from far and wide.

Once this virus takes hold in the body, it’s too late to change your mind. The vaccine is not a treatment but a preventative medicine. It can only work ahead of that time.

Dr Who has written previously for The Echo and has had their credentials checked to confirm the expertise of opinion.

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14 COMMENTS

  1. Off the back of one woman having a miscarriage this week, I am shocked at this article.
    Who are you Dr Who to tell a woman what to do with her body and her unborn child, how dare you is all I can say.
    Will you take liability if something goes wrong- No I’m sure you wont, just like the Pharmacuetical companies who are pushing this agenda.
    I am deeply disappointed in the Echo for this article.

    • Tragically, Leon a number of miscarriages will happen across the state/nation/globe in any one week. I don’t know to which particular instance you are referring but is there an established or even informed suspicion that there was a causal link to vaccination? Or is it something you read on Facebook?

      By implying a link, without the context, you are the one doing a huge disservice to women who DO have every right to make their own decisions about their bodies and unborn babies – but with the best available information. “How dare you! ” is all I can say.

      • Doing a disservice by laying out some concerns? really
        The facts are that these drugs are still part of a trail and it is irresponsible to make claims when what we should be doing is investigating the event and finding out the truth. I wonder why the drug companies are waving all liability for any harm or drug related injuries?

        Science is about chasing the facts rather than pushing an opinion. The facts are that it takes years to discover the true long term effects and the safety to the unborn child. It is irresponsible for some person “Dr Who”, to publish advice as if it is true when the fact is nobody really knows. We do not even know if the so called “Dr Who” is a medical doctor but hey if they back the jab then who needs to fact check?

        • Joseph why would you be worried if Dr Who is a medical doctor when there is so often such total disregard for qualification or expertise. I though a lack of medical credentials might be an advantage because the medical profession are mostly in on the plan to depopulate us.

          This is an extremely balanced article that simply lays out the issues about vaccination and pregnancy to the best of current medical knowledge and experience. Science is about pursuing the truth but medicine is surely about giving advice based on the knowledge gleaned. That’s why we go to see people who know more than us.

          There is a decision to be made because while no pregnant woman wants to take in foreign substances, based on science’s fact finding it’s seems there are increased risks of Covid 19 infection to mother and baby. It’s an unenviable decision – one I’m glad I never had to make.

          There is a world of difference between the material in this article that the cards on the table and a reference full of foreboding suggestion of “a miscarriage” but zero, zilch explanation, substantiation by which anyone could be “investigating the event and finding out the truth”.

          Women need the pros and cons as outlined by those who know and left to make their decision. A serious one that amateurs should stay out of.

          Don’t pretend that forebodings about “experimental” vaccines and unknown consequences and references to “one woman having a miscarriage this week” is not pushing a clear and present agenda and asserting a less than subtle pressure. But hey if it’s anti vax then that all fine..

        • These are other “concerns”, Joseph that should make any social media warriors pause before pushing their own uninformed agendas on women who have to make a difficult decision. I simply quote them here for balance along with the advice from the pregnant woman at the centre of an Age/SMH report: “ She advises those who may still be hesitant to get advice from their doctor rather than the internet: ‘ Usually the information you get from Dr Google is not the right information.’”

          The Age/SMH reported Dr Lyndon Hale, Melbourne IVF medical director and director of reproductive surgery at the Royal Women’s Hospital, as saying ‘… we know you are eight-times more likely to miscarry and 10 times more likely to end up in ICU, and may lose your baby.’

          ‘ Due to the growing baby pushing up into the mother’s diaphragm, making breathing more difficult, the risk from COVID-19 to unvaccinated mothers and their babies increases as the pregnancy advances.

          “ ‘When you breathe in, your [the mother’s] body takes every skerrick of oxygen it can and your baby gets what’s left’ said Dr Hale.

          “‘ Having helped someone do IVF treatment, and knowing how desperately they want that baby, to then think they might put it at risk because of misinformation is appalling to me.’

          It also quotes Professor Michelle Giles, an infectious diseases physician and maternal immunisation expert at Monash University and the Doherty Institute: “The data shows if you get it, particularly in the second or third trimester, there is more risk of admission to hospital, ICU, needing to be ventilated and pre-term birth”.

    • Deon, This doctor is not telling anyone what to do…they have simply put forward facts… facts which if taken seriously, may very well lead some expectant mothers to decide on getting vaxxed. Their choice, no pressure. That is all and your obvious anger is very much misdirected…. I myself would be directing it towards the ones spreading the disinformation and fear which you obviously subscribe to. I encourage you to look at the actual statistics of the damage Covid 19 can do to pregnant women and their babies. This is a responsible piece and I applaud the Echo.

      • “This Doctor”?
        Dear Echo, is Dr Who a qualified registered medical doctor? People are looking to this article as if it is a real doctor.

        • Hi Joseph – I apologize for not approving your comment as soon as you put it up.
          I went for a walk with my dogs, then cooked dinner.
          I am sorry if you were inconvenienced.

  2. So sad that people can’t read and accept advice because they’ve been deluded by misinformation.
    Read the stories of babies being birthed to mothers dead or dying of Covid and count yourself lucky to be in a country where vaccines are free and readily available.
    Science has never been perfect, but you probably wouldn’t be alive and healthy if it wasn’t for scientific developments and vaccines.
    Weird and surreal that this who think of themselves as ‘natural’ people are listening to Clive Palmer and right wing nutters.

  3. Women are advised to avoid alcohol while pregnant, but it’s ok to pump an experimental drug into them? There is ample evidence of miscarriages occurring after mRNA injections. Do some real research, you know-nothing “doctor”.

    • The adverse effects of alcohol on the unborn are well known and there are no known benefits. It’s all lose lose. The decision about alcohol is straightforward. The decision about Covid19 vaccination is not comparable because the impacts on Covid19 on pregnant women and pregnancy are also known and it’s not a nice story.

      Most medical interventions involve balancing the potential risks and benefits and these sorts of complexities are perhaps better understood after around seven years of medical training followed by many more in practice. Why would you dismiss all this as “know-nothing” but assume that your own research – based on what you are fed by social media algorithms – is somehow superior? That’s really out there.

    • I’m all for free and open expression of ideas but I wonder if unsubstantiated potentially dangerous comments like “ There is ample evidence of miscarriages occurring after mRNA injections” should slip straight through the moderator’s filter?

  4. Agree with Liz Levy 100 %. Suzanne I m wondering what your sources are for your claims that mRNA vaccines cause miscarriages ? Poeple are obsessed with their right to have their own opinions lately. As often said we are all able to have our own set of opinions but cannot have our own set of facts. So what is the evidence for the facts Suzanne? I ‘m trained in the Physical Sciences have based my life on accepting truth as evidenced by experiment and rigorous testing and analysis. Someone please show me the experimental and peer reviewed evidence for some of the claims made by many (but not all ) anti vaccination / vaccination hesitant proponents. If they do and i can see the undeniable proof before me, I will join their cause.

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