Did you know that your baby gets disease immunity (protection) from you during pregnancy? This immunity will protect your baby from some diseases during the first few months of life, but immunity decreases over time. Babies need to be vaccinated starting at birth to stay protected against 14 serious and potentially life threatening diseases. All vaccines are tested for safety under the supervision of the FDA. The vaccines are checked for purity, potency and safety, and the FDA and CDC monitor the safety of each vaccine for as long as it is in use.
It is safe, and very important, for a pregnant woman to receive the inactivated flu vaccine. A pregnant woman who gets the flu is at risk for serious complications and hospitalization. This vaccine can prevent serious illness in the mother during pregnancy. All women who will be pregnant (any trimester) during the flu season should be offered this vaccine. If you have an allergy to an ingredient in a vaccine such as eggs in the influenza vaccine, talk to you obstetrician or primary care physician. A number of vaccines, especially live-virus vaccines, should not be given to pregnant women, because they may be harmful to the baby. (A live-virus vaccine is made using the live strains of a virus.) Some vaccines can be given to the mother in the second or third trimester of pregnancy, while others should only be administered either at least three months before or immediately after the baby is born.
The following vaccines are considered safe to give to women who may be at risk of infection:
· Hepatitis B: Pregnant women who are at high risk for this disease and have tested negative for the virus can receive this vaccine. It is used to protect the mother and baby against infection both before and after delivery. A series of three doses is required to have immunity. The 2nd and 3rd doses are given 1 and 6 months after the first dose.
· Influenza (Inactivated)
· Tetanus/Diphtheria/Pertussis (Tdap): Tdap is recommended during pregnancy,preferably between 27 and 36 weeks’ gestation, to protect baby from whooping cough. If not administered during pregnancy, Tdap should be administered immediately after the birth of your baby.
Whooping Cough (Pertussis): Whooping cough is one of the most common vaccine-preventable diseases in the United States. It is caused by bacteria that spread easily from person to person through personal contact, coughing, and sneezing. It can be very serious for babies and can cause them to stop breathing. Pregnant women should receive a dose of Tdap during each pregnancy, preferably at 27 through 36 weeks – to protect themselves and their baby. In addition, all family members and caregivers (like babysitters or grandparents) of infants should also get vaccinated with Tdap.
Important Vaccines to Consider for Women Planning a Pregnancy
Rubella (German measles): Rubella infection in pregnant women can cause unborn babies to have serious birth defects with devastating, life-long consequences, or even die before birth. Make sure you have a pre-pregnancy blood test to see if you are immune to the disease. Most women were vaccinated as children with the combination measles, mumps, rubella vaccine (MMR) but you should confirm this with your doctor. If you need to get vaccinated for rubella, you should avoid becoming pregnant until one month after receiving the MMR vaccine and, ideally, not until your immunity is confirmed by a blood test.
Many vaccine-preventable diseases, rarely seen in the United States, are still common in other parts of the world. A pregnant woman planning international travel should talk to her obstetrician about vaccines against preventable diseases she may be exposed to while traveling. Information about travel vaccines can also be found at the Center For Disease Control’s traveler’s health website at http://www.cdc.gov/travel.
It is safe for a woman to receive routine vaccines right after giving birth, even while she is breastfeeding. A woman who has not received the vaccine for the prevention of tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (Tdap) should be vaccinated right after delivery. This can reduce not only your risk but the risk of your baby as well. Also, if you are not immune to measles, mumps and rubella and/or varicella (chicken pox) your obstetrician may recommend you be vaccinated before leaving the hospital.
Pregnancy is a good time to learn about childhood vaccines. Parents-to-be can learn more about childhood vaccines from the CDC parents guide and review the child and adolescent vaccination schedules. This information can be downloaded and printed at http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines. There has been a great deal of misinformation/myths about immunizations and it is important for you to have accurate information about immunizations.