Now more than ever it is important for everyone to stay up to date on all their vaccinations. This is especially for pregnant women or women who wish to become pregnant, as any disease they contract may affect their unborn child.
To prevent any pregnancy complications and keep your baby healthy the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends a certain set of vaccines that all women should receive before, during and after pregnancy.
The Tdap vaccine protects against whooping cough, also referred to as pertussis, and is recommended for all pregnant women during their pregnancies. Anyone can get whooping cough, but it is usually only life threatening to infants under 2 months of age.
Because babies can develop this disease so young, they are not able to form antibodies quick enough to protect them from this disease even if they are given the Tdap vaccine right after birth. Due to an infant’s inability to create its own antibodies fast enough, it is not uncommon for whooping cough to result in many hospital visits until the infant is stable.
To prevent hospitalization or worse, doctors recommend that all pregnant women receive a Tdap vaccine between the 27th and 36th week of pregnancy in order to pass the mother’s antibodies from the vaccine to the unborn child. It is also recommended that mother’s receive the vaccine closer to the 27th week than the 36th week.
The immunity against whooping cough passed down from mother to child after getting the Tdap vaccine will be temporary and lose effectiveness after time, but it will give infants a better chance of fighting the disease after they are born. Once the infant is able to produce its own antibodies a few months after birth, it will be able to combat the disease on its own and with the help of medical professionals if needed.
Because of the high infant mortality rate due to whooping cough, this is the number one vaccine all pregnant women would consider getting during their pregnancy.
The flu shot is safe to get at any time during a pregnancy and is highly recommended if you are pregnant during flu season. While the Tbap shot was mostly to protect an unborn infant from disease, a flu shot is more to protect an expecting mother. Pregnant women are more prone to catching the flu due changes in their immune system because of their pregnancies.
In addition to a weakened immune system, pregnant women also have wakened circulation and lung capacity due to the burden of carrying a child. All these factors make expecting mothers susceptible to the flu.
Additionally, a flu shot will also help prevent flu-related complications to pass on to the unborn infant. When a pregnant woman gets a shot, it provides newborn babies with temporary antibodies that will also help defend them from the flu after they are born, similar to how the Tdap vaccine protects them from whooping cough. There will also be a lower risk of pregnancy complications if a mother is healthy throughout the entire ordeal.
For the flu shot, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that pregnant women be vaccinated at the end of October or as early in the flu season as possible in order to build up the proper immunities before the flu becomes too prevalent.
The MMR vaccine protects against measles, mumps and rubella, hence the abbreviated MMR. This is a vaccine that women should take before or directly after pregnancy if they have not had one. If you are up to date on all of your vaccinations, you should have had the MMR vaccine at one point in your life, as it is one of the vaccines required for all children to attend school. H
owever, to make sure if you have been vaccinated against measles, mumps and rubella, you can have a blood test done to confirm your immunity.
If you have not received the MMR vaccine and plan to become pregnant soon, it is recommended that you get an MMR shot one to two months before you plan on becoming pregnant. Rubella can cause many complications during birth if an expecting mother is infected, including birth defects and even a miscarage so it is critical that all potential mothers be vaccinated before becoming pregnant.
If you are not vaccinated for MMR before becoming pregnant, consult your doctor on how to keep yourself safe until after you have given birth, at which point you will be able to receive the vaccine.
Hepatitis A and B
The Hepatitis A and B vaccines only pertain to pregnant women who have hepatitis B or have a history of chronic liver disease in their family. If a baby is born to a mother with hepatitis B, there is a very high chance that the disease might be passed on to the newborn child.
However, there is a bit of risk involved with giving a pregnant woman with hepatitis B a hepatitis B vaccine. It can cause complications in the mother’s immunity system since they already carry the disease and my or may not affect the unborn child. It is recommended for all pregnant women to get tested for hepatitis B and see if a treatment strategy can be created with the help of a doctor.
For women who do not have hepatitis A or B, but have a history of chronic liver conditions in their families, it may be a good idea to consult a doctor about getting a hepatitis A vaccine while pregnant. Hepatitis A is incredibly contagious and an infant may be in danger of contracting it if the mother is a carrier or prone to liver liver conditions. If the infant is already susceptible to the hepatitis A virus when born, it can cause major complications.
For both of these vaccines, it is recommended to talk to your healthcare professional and decide if either of these are needed and what your next steps should be if they are.
Travel vaccines are conditional vaccination options that pregnant women will not need unless they need to travel out of the country while pregnant. If you are traveling outside of the country and require additional vaccines to travel, it is important to consult your doctor and find out if the vaccines you need are safe to receive while pregnant.
For example, if you are traveling to a country where you may be exposed to meningococcal disease, you may need to have a meningococcal vaccine administered before you go.
If you do need to be vaccinated before traveling, it is recommended that you receive your vaccine 2 to 4 weeks before your departure. This way, you will be able to produce the proper antibodies for whatever disease you have been vaccinated against and have a lower chance of contracting it while overseas. Since vaccines may vary depending on your destination, it is always prudent to seek the advice of your physician before getting a vaccine for travel or considering travel at all.
Vaccines After Childbirth
In addition to all the vaccines mentioned above, some health professionals also recommend that women receive certain vaccines after birth. An example of this would be if a mother has never received an MMR vaccine. As mentioned before, mothers can pass on antibodies to their infant while carrying them, but they can also pass antibodies to their children after they are born through breast feeding.
If you are able to breastfeed your child, some doctors may recommend you receive a set of booster vaccines to give your baby early antibodies through your milk after they are born. These antibodies will help protect your children from diseases they may be susceptible to right after birth, such as the flu or the measles.
However, vaccinations for mothers right after birth are dependent on the specific situation you and your infant are in, so consult your doctor beforehand.