Family pleads for less this holiday season Study prompts call to examine flu vaccine link to miscarriage
My husband and I have three beautiful children, ages 10, 3, and 1.
We are blessed with a large family on both sides. They are all incredibly generous, especially at Christmas. They love to give gifts, and we are grateful for their generosity. However, like many families with similarly aged children, we have come to find lately that we have an overabundance of, well ... stuff.
My husband and I have come to feel that we would like to stem the abundant flow of toys into our house, as our kids have far more than they could ever need or play with.
Not only that, but little ones just don’t have the attention span to sit and open tons of presents. Last Christmas, it took my son three days to open all of the presents our families sent, even considering that my husband and I only gave our kids one gift a piece.
This year, we would really like to ask our families to avoid buying toys altogether. We would be fine with no gifts at all, but if our families insist, we would much rather the gift of experience. For example, memberships to local children’s museums and zoos, contributions toward summer camps or extracurriculars, movie tickets, etc.
I know in general it is considered rude to ask for specific gifts. However, I fear that if we don’t say something soon, we will be overwhelmed with toys again. We appreciate the thoughts, but we are at capacity.
I would feel terrible taking toys immediately to donation centers, but I think that’s what will happen. Is there any gentle way to make this request without seeming greedy or ungrateful? — UP TO HERE WITH GIFTS
You should contact everyone on both sides of your family in (perhaps) a group email, and express your gratitude for their generosity. Tell them that this year you are going to try to cut down on the abundance of material gifts. Say, “We’d be happy to offer suggestions for alternatives, such as memberships to our local museum or extracurriculars for the kids. It also might be fun for them to receive ‘coupons’ for experiences from you, which they could cash in throughout the year. We certainly don’t want to dictate your choices, but thought we would share this idea with you.”
I am not generally the kind of person to seek outside help like a therapist, but I love my wife dearly and we are struggling. After initial hesitancy, my wife, “Dahlia,” has agreed to attend marriage counseling together.
Dahlia has seen therapists individually in the past, with varying degrees of satisfaction.
One of the specialists in the area is someone Dahlia has seen individually and was pleased with.
I see the benefits of having a counselor who has some background into our situation already and that I know has the right chemistry with my wife.
But I also wonder if having heard only one side and having built a relationship with Dahlia and not me makes this therapist an unwise choice for us.
Can you help guide us? What are your thoughts? — WONDERING HUSBAND
I would counsel against seeing the same therapist your wife already has a relationship with. One reason is that marital therapy should be future focused, while individual therapy is often rooted in the functions and dynamics of the family of origin.
It seems logical that you should both start with a fresh story-slate.
NEW YORK — A puzzling study of U.S. pregnancies found that women who had miscarriages between 2010 and 2012 were more likely to have had back-toback annual flu shots that included protection against swine flu.
Vaccine experts think the results may reflect the older age and other miscarriage risks for the women, and not the flu shots. Health officials say there is no reason to change the government recommendation that all pregnant women be vaccinated against the flu. They say the flu itself is a much greater danger to women and their fetuses.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reached out to a doctor’s group, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, to warn them the study is coming out and help them prepare for a potential wave of worry from expectant moms, CDC officials said.
“I want the CDC and researchers to continue to investigate this,” said Dr. Laura Riley, a Boston-based obstetrician who leads a committee on maternal immunization. “But as an advocate for pregnant women, what I hope doesn’t happen is that people panic and stop getting vaccinated.”
Past studies have found flu vaccines are safe during pregnancy, though there’s been little research on impact of flu vaccinations given in the first three months of pregnancy.
This study focused only on miscarriages, which occur in the first 19 weeks of pregnancy and are common. As many as half of pregnancies end in miscarriage, according to a March of Dimes estimate that tries to include instances in which the miscarriage occurs before a women even realizes she was pregnant.
Flu and its complications kill thousands of Americans every year. The elderly, young children and pregnant women are especially at risk. When a new “swine flu” strain emerged in 2009, it killed 56 U.S. pregnant women that year, according to the CDC.
The study’s authors, two of whom are CDC researchers, saw a big difference when they looked at women who had miscarried within 28 days of getting a shot that included protection against swine flu, but it was only when the women also had had a flu shot the previous season.
They found 17 of 485 miscarriages they studied involved women whose vaccinations followed that pattern. Just four of a comparable 485 healthy pregnancies involved women who were vaccinated that way.
The first group also had more women who were at higher risk for miscarriage, like older moms and smokers and those with diabetes. The researchers tried to make statistical adjustments to level out some of those differences but some researchers don’t think they completely succeeded.
Other experts said they don’t believe a shot made from killed flu virus could trigger an immune system response severe enough to prompt a miscarriage. And the authors said they couldn’t rule out the possibility that exposure to swine flu itself was a factor in some miscarriages.
Two other medical journals rejected the article before a third,
accepted it. Dr. Gregory Poland, editor-in-chief, said it was a well-designed study that raised a question that shouldn’t be ignored. But he doesn’t believe flu shots caused the miscarriages. “Not at all,” said Poland, who also is director of vaccine research at the Mayo Clinic.
Though this study may cause worry and confusion, it is evidence “of just how rigorous and principled our vaccine safety monitoring system is,” said Jason Schwartz, a Yale University vaccine policy expert.
Some of the same researchers are working on a larger study looking at more recent data to see if a possible link between swine flu vaccine and miscarriage holds up, said James Donahue, a study author from the Wisconsin-based Marshfield Clinic Research Institute. The results aren’t expected until next year at the earliest, he said.