What happens to your body during pregnancy, happens to your baby. Many women remain uninformed of the importance of vaccines while pregnant. This may make them vulnerable to contracting illnesses that could affect them and their unborn children. It is important for expectant women to talk to their doctors and figure out which immunizations they need during pregnancy and which ones should wait until the child is born.
Why Vaccines are Important
It is quite possible to contract diseases that are easily transferred to your unborn child in utero. Outbreaks like the recent measles scare make it increasingly important for pregnant moms to be to make sure they get the appropriate vaccines during pregnancy.
All vaccines certified by the Food and Drug Administration are safe for human intake. However, they should be administered under a doctor’s prescription to ensure that they are taken at the right time and for the right reasons. Also, it is important to keep in mind that some vaccines, such as the influenza vaccine, contain eggs that may pose allergic risks to some women.
Vaccines During Pregnancy
There are specific vaccines all pregnant ladies are required to obtain during pregnancy to help prevent the transformation of diseases to their fetus. The CDC acknowledges the benefits of vaccinations for the health of your family so they have suggested specific vaccines for all expecting mothers to help keep them and their babies safe.
What Vaccines Should You Take?
The following vaccines are passed as safe for expectant women who may be at risk of contracting infections.
This vaccine should be administered in its inactivated form in preparation for flu season. The flu may seem like an insignificant virus, but it may cause severe damages to a pregnant woman’s body. During the pregnancy period, a woman’s body gives most of its energy and attention to creating the baby, thus suppressing the immune system. Influenza shots are critical for protecting both the mother and her unborn child from the flu virus after exposure.
While healthy adults can carry the flu virus without showing any symptoms, expectant women will show a number of signs as the immune system tries to fight off the infection. Symptoms may include the following:
- Respiratory complications
- Premature labor
- Severe nausea and vomiting
- Episodes of confusion
- In severe cases, miscarriage
Pregnant women who get the flu find themselves sicker than they would be at any other time. They can go into premature labor, their babies can be born smaller than the normal size of a healthy newborn baby, be required to be hospitalized after birth and in some rare cases experience death.
Pregnant women should wait until the second trimester before they obtain the flu shot because the fetus is still in a sensitive period. All persons who are in touch with the woman should also be vaccinated to reduce the risk of spreading the flu.
Acellular Pertussis (Tdap) Vaccine (Whooping Cough)
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 41,000 whooping cough cases in 2012. For this reason, the whooping cough/Pertussis vaccine is the number one vaccine suggested for pregnant women. Babies who contract whooping cough are at risk for a high death rate. The infectious disease fatality rate in 2012 was 20 infants under the age of three months.
This vaccine protects both the mother and unborn child from whooping cough. Whooping cough can be life-threatening to anyone and mostly to fetuses with immature immune systems. Mothers who skip this vaccine expose their children to the disease after birth. The condition is a silent killer and doesn’t manifest itself through vigorous coughing in babies below the age of one year. Instead, the baby may stop breathing and succumb to death without warning.
Getting the Tdap vaccine during pregnancy, preferably between 27 and 36 weeks of gestation, prepares the body to protect the baby from whooping cough. In case you miss this vaccine, the doctor will recommend it immediately after the birth of the baby.
Hepatitis B and A
Hepatitis B is a severe liver infection that is spread through contact with infected blood and bodily fluids. The disease can easily be passed from mother to unborn child during delivery. Getting the hepatitis B vaccine during pregnancy should cover the unborn baby and protect him or her from getting infected with the disease.
Also, if you had been vaccinated before, you might want to get the vaccine again to prevent future infection for both you and your child. For full immunity against hepatitis B, doctors will recommend a series of three doses. The first dose should be administered before pregnancy, the second at one month and the third at six months after the initial dose.
Hepatitis A is a low-grade liver disease. This disease is not as serious as hep B, but it is something to consider taking precautions for. It is not likely the disease will be passed on to an unborn fetus, however, the possibility is there. Hepatitis A can cause infection in the newborn and premature labor. This is a vaccination that should be considered for pregnant women going on a trip. Hepatitis A is a disease contracted through contaminated water and food.
Can Immunizations Harm Your Unborn Baby?
Some vaccines can cause adverse effects to the baby if administered during pregnancy. This reason necessitates having a doctor guide you through vaccines considered safe during expectancy. Vaccines with live viruses should not be given to pregnant women since they contain activated strains of the virus. Some vaccines should be given to the mother in the second or third trimester, while some should only be given after the birth of the child.
What to Consider
There are a number of vaccines required before, during, and after pregnancy. The required vaccines will be determined by various factors such as your lifestyle, medical history and age. It is important to put a vaccination plan together with your doctor when you are planning all the other tests and procedures required of all pregnant women.
Your baby develops their immune system from your immune system before birth. The proper vaccination during pregnancy will help their little immune system develop strong enough for them to survive on their own once they are born. The vaccines you receive while you are pregnant can be the armor your baby needs to endure all the kisses and snuggles they will receive from every family member and friend who will love on them as soon as they meet them.
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