I have been hearing a lot about how pregnant women should receive the flu shot, as they are considered "high risk" since their immune systems are lowered (interesting enough, I recently read the reason the immune system lowers is to prevent it from attacking the developing baby--makes getting a cold seem more noble!). I've read about it on the internet, and my OB recommended it. Of course, since there is all this debate out there about mercury in shots for children, I figure there ought to be for pregnant women who are carrying children, as well.
My friend, Laurie, helps me research it a little and finds that there are basically 3 types of flu shots:
1) No thimerosal (the mercury-based preservative). This is what they give to children now.
2) Trace amount of thimerosal, but considered to be negligible.
3) A larger amount of thimerosal (probably the cheapest, given out at clinics, like CVS etc).
So, I decide I will get a flu shot as long as it is thimerosal-free, or contains only trace amounts. I call my doctor's office and the woman on the phone has no idea what kind of flu shot they have at their office. She says I can make an appointment and ask the doctor. I decide chances are decent that they'll have one of the better shots (this is the Westchester Medical Group, after all--filled with wealthy suburban moms who must be as concerned as I am), so I don't bother trying to speak to a doctor on the phone ahead of time, and simply to go my appointment.
Once in the exam room, I tell the nurse what I'm looking for. Immediately, she says, "We just have the regular shots."
"You don't even have the trace amount one?"
"No. And it's gonna take you a long time to get one of those. Do you wanna talk to the doctor anyway?"
"Yes," I sigh. Might as well.
The doctor enters and I tell him I'm pregnant, want the flu shot, but don't want the full amount of thimerosal in the shot.
And here begins his convincing/bullying:
He starts out by giving me his opinion based on government research. "There is nothing wrong with the flu shot. It's perfectly safe for pregnant women."
I tell him my opinion. "Well, given the debate about mercury in shots, and since I'm pregnant, I'd just rather not take that chance. If it were just me, I wouldn't care, but since I have a growing baby, I'd like the mercury-free shot."
Clearly, I am not responsive to pure facts, so he tries another approach. "Do you eat fish?"
"Not the kind that has mercury in it, not while I'm pregnant. No. And do you know how much mercury is in one fish compared to how much is in a shot?" (I mean, hey, if it's the same amount, that's one thing, but if it's concentrated and 100x the amount, that's certainly another)
"No, I don't know the exact amount."
He uses another comparison. "Well, do you walk down the street? You know you're inhaling exhaust and all kinds of metals then. Mercury is just another metal."
"That may be," I say. "But I can't do anything about the exhaust fumes in the air. I can do something about this shot, so why not do the least risky thing, since I have a choice?"
He takes another angle. "Regardless, your body is very well equipped to get rid of toxins. Very little of it will actually stay in you or reach the fetus."
"Maybe, but I'd still rather put in as few toxins as possible if I have the choice."
He argues with me a little bit more and seems a bit annoyed with me. I'm sure he is hoping I will break down, get the shot, and make this easier on all of us. And I can see how some people might, since he is quite the badger.
Finally, I take one for the team and label myself something I don't believe I am, "Look. Call me a crazy pregnant woman, but I want the mercury-free or trace amount of mercury shot. Can you order it for me, or tell me somewhere else I can get it?"
Then he concedes. "Well, I guess pregnant women all have their own worries. I can order it for you."
So I take the little condescending remark and smile. "I really appreciate it."
I walk out to the waiting room, he tells the receptionist to refund my copay since he was not able to help me (I do appreciate this, because $20 for an argument does not seem right), then a minute later, he returns. He tells me the shot is back-ordered and he doesn't know when it'll be in. He suggests I check in the next week. I thank him and receive my $20 refund.
So now, 2 weeks have passed and still no mercury-free flu shot. I will call again today or tomorrow to check in.
I really wonder why they are so in demand, I wonder why they even make them at all, if there is no purpose for having these shots mercury-free? I wonder...
When I come home and tell Mike what happened, he says, "Thank you for protecting our baby!" and hugs me.
And he's not even a "crazy pregnant woman." :)
2013: The Year in Pictures
5 years ago