Mama Monday - Infant Immunizations
One of my jobs as a birth doula is assisting my clients in writing their birth plans. Birth plans include both a mother's preferences concerning procedures and the environment surrounding her baby's birth, as well as her wishes for newborn care.
I have been receiving a lot of questions recently about information regarding immunizations for newborns, and I've also seen some pretty interesting posts in health blogs I follow. I think the questions of whether or not to vaccinate, and on what schedule to do so are important questions for parents ask.
I posted a controversial article I found on my facebook page several days ago, and posed the question, "How do you feel about immunizations?" hoping to spur on some conversation. I was not disappointed, and was very pleased with some of the educated responses from my friends. Different perspectives are really helpful to hear when faced with such controversial decisions. One friend, a father of 7 home schooled children, shared how he and his wife chose to abstain from immunizations until their children went to school. For the oldest 4, this meant college, literally. He shared how they weighed the risks of various diseases, and about how their long bout of passing the whooping cough around the house, while quite an ordeal, felt like a better choice than the risks associated with the vaccine itself. Another friend, presently living and serving people in a third world country, shared that babies in her community that don't get vaccinated die, and those that do live. Still others shared their varying choices of vaccinating on routine and alternative or delayed schedules. One mother shared the view of many, who is convinced her child's autism is very likely linked to vaccines he received as an infant.
My immediate answer to anyone with questions regarding immunizations for their children is to get educated. Get educated from doctors and from reputable sources, not celebrities or bloggers (myself included). Ask questions, get answers, and follow your gut as a parent.
I personally felt an enormous weight on my own shoulders as a parent when it came to this subject. I read everything I could get my hands on, and studied statistic charts until I felt I might go blind! After delaying any shots for the first few months, I chose to trust the numbers that assured me there was more risk of my babies getting sick or dying without the vaccinations than from the shots themselves. To me, it felt like a huge leap of faith, and every time I take my children in for shots, I still feel the sick pit in my stomach. I think to myself, what if me allowing my child to get this shot leads to something unspeakable happening to him?
I think questions like that make us better parents. Feeling the weight of responsibility is a good thing and not something to be fearful of, but there is definitely a balance between responsibility and trust. Ultimately, we are not in control of what happens to our kids. Whether you have religious views or not, you can agree that we simply cannot control our circumstances to the extent we would like sometimes. We must ask questions, get educated, and do the best we can to control what we can.
Since I am not a doctor, I will not go any further to say whether or not I think parents should immunize their children; rather I will share with you the best of what I have found to be unbiased, well researched, evidence based information concerning immunizations. Read. Look up words you don't know, and ask mathletes to help you interpret the numbers. Seriously! Don't be afraid of immunizations, but don't do something you feel uncomfortable about just because "that's what everyone does." If you feel uncomfortable, ask questions until you feel comfortable.
Finally, talk to your pediatrician and family practitioners. If you do not have a health care provider who listens to you and takes time to talk openly with you about your concerns, find one who will. Talk to someone who knows your family, your health history and lifestyle. Bring in the information you find and ask educated professionals to help you make sense of it!
I have found the following resources to be helpful:
- Immunization Action Coalition - This website has sections specifically for health care professionals, public, parents, coalitions and more. There are specific pages for every disease and immunization available. I think it's extremely helpful to know that this is a source used by practitioners throughout the country and world which helps guide them in their decision making and recommendations to patients.
- Allied Vaccine Group - This is a group of websites dedicated to providing unbiased news and information regarding vaccines. Allied Vaccine Group includes members such as The American Academy of Pediatrics, Parents of Kids with Infectious Diseases, and National Network for Immunization Information. When you search for information through this database, you will find information rich articles from varying sources, including medical journals and the news. This is definitely the place for information junkies to go.
- National Vaccine Information Center - This non-profit educational organization "is dedicated to the prevention of vaccine injuries and deaths through public education and to defending the informed consent ethic in medicine." They have an entire section of their website dedicated to information about vaccine reactions. It is important to know that while the risks are low for unfavorable reactions to vaccines, they can happen, and you need to know what to watch for. This site will help you know what to ask your health care provider.
- Dr. Sears' Vaccine Book - While I have yet to read this book cover to cover, I have read some of the Sears' other books, and respect their perspective on medicine and health greatly. What I appreciate about the Dr. Sears books and AskDrSears.com
- Dr. Oz on Vaccines - I am growing to respect Dr. Oz's health advice more and more. He is very informative, and emphasizes overall health and nutrition, while incorporating his knowledge as a surgeon and physician. This link is to an excerpt from Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen's book YOU: Having a Baby, specifically their chapter discussing vaccines. There is an extensive chart which tackles just about every question you could think of, with information from those in support of vaccines, those against vaccines, and then Dr's Oz and Roizen's perspective on each issue.
I would LOVE to hear your perspective and your story of how you've addressed this important health issue for your family. Where did you go for information? What questions did you have, or do you have, and what answers have you found?
Love and Honey,