Importance of Vaccinations during Pregnancy

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Have you ever thought why vaccines are given to mum-to-be?  If not, vaccinated mothers pass on infection-fighting proteins called antibodies to their babies.  During the first few months of life, these antibodies provide protection against certain diseases.  In general, vaccines give you and your baby a protective cover against a host of preventable diseases.

Many women may not realize that when they carry a life in the womb they are not up-to-date on their immunizations and are prone to diseases that may endanger the health of them and their unborn child.  Pregnant women should have a discussion with their gynaecologist in terms of vaccines that they may need during the pregnancy and the ones that they should wait until after the child is born.   In order to beef up protection of the mother and the unborn baby, it is advisable that you understand nature of the vaccine and the benefits it provides during pregnancy and at times post pregnancy until the infant is vaccinated.

Is it safe to get vaccines during pregnancy?

Yes, it is 100% safe to get the vaccines recommended during gestation.  All vaccines are tested for safety under supervision of the highest medical body.  Vaccines are extensively checked for purity, potency and safety.  Safety of each vaccine in use is paramount as long as it is out for use.  Medical studies show that whooping cough and flu vaccines (two commonly given vaccines during pregnancy) help provide immunity against these diseases during pregnancy.  Having said that, like any medicine, vaccines may have side effects.  But these side effects are generally mild and go away on their own.  The side effects of vaccines that are given against flu and whooping cough may include:

  • Pain, redness, or swelling where the shot was given
  • Muscle aches
  • Feeling tired
  • Fever

In fact, people tend to experience these side effects, not just pregnant women.  What needs to be kept in mind is that some people may be allergic to an ingredient contained in a vaccine, such as eggs in the influenza vaccine, so they should inform the doctor regarding this before the vaccine is administered.

Which vaccines are recommended?

Generally vaccines that contain inactivated viruses can be given to mum-to-be’s.  Vaccines that contain live viruses aren’t generally recommended for pregnant women.  (A live-virus vaccine is made using the live strains of a virus.)  Two vaccines that are routinely recommended during pregnancy are Flu (influenza) shot and Tdap vaccine.

Flu (influenza) shot:

This vaccination is given to women who get pregnant during flu season as pregnant women are at increased risk for serious complications from the flu.  The flu can also cause serious problems like early labor and delivery, which can affect the baby’s health.

In addition to protecting the mother and your unborn baby, taking a flu shot during gestation reduces the risk of newborn getting flu for several months after birth.  That in turn lowers the incidences of serious complications like pneumonia (lung infection).  A pregnant woman can get the flu vaccine during any trimester of the pregnancy.  The vaccine is completely safe for the mother and the baby as it is made from inactivated virus.

Note:  Avoid influenza nasal spray vaccine, which is made from a live virus.

Tetanus/Diphtheria and Pertussis (Tdap) vaccine:

As newborns are prone to infectious diseases, getting themselves protected against whooping cough during the early stages of birth is very crucial, so one dose of Tdap vaccine is recommended during pregnancy, preferably given between 27 and 36 weeks of gestation to protect baby from whooping cough.  About half of babies who get whooping cough end up in the hospital and the disease can be life threatening.

Note:  Tdap vaccine is also recommended for other adults who spend time with the baby to reduce the risk of exposing themselves to the disease which may in turn pass on to the baby.

Getting these timely vaccinations protect your baby from serious medical condition like flu and whooping cough after birth before he or she can be vaccinated.

If you have to travel abroad or are at an increased risk of certain other infections, your doctor may recommend some other vaccines during pregnancy – such as hepatitis A and hepatitis B vaccines.  It is because many vaccine-preventable diseases may be rare in your place, but prevalent in the place that you are going to visit.

If you are pregnant, you should have a detailed discussion regarding the timing of all the vaccines that are recommended to you because some vaccines can be administered during the second or third trimester of the pregnancy, whereas others should only be given either at least three months before the expected date of delivery or immediately after the baby is born.

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