Top 7 Things You Need to Know About Vaccines and Pregnancy

You want to bring into the world a baby bouncing with health. That requires an expectant mother to eat nutritious food at correct intervals, drink plenty of water, and supplement the fluid intake with fruit and vegetable juices, soups, and milk, unless you are lactose intolerant. Apart from appropriate nutrition and exercise, you should also focus on certain vaccines you should take before, and during pregnancy, and after delivery to protect both yourself and your baby from what could prove potentially life threatening, or at least crippling, diseases. The main idea is to provide your baby with a shield till her/his body is strong enough to battle diseases. You must ensure that anyone who is going to be around your baby is also vaccinated.

  1. Avoid Immunization During First Trimester
  2. Prevent spontaneous abortion by not taking any kind of vaccines in the first trimester. This is the period when there is a very high risk of cross placenta infection too. The entire purpose of immunization gets defeated if the fetus gets infected with a vaccine preventable disease because the mother was given a vaccine in the first semester. Even though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) have said that certain vaccines like the influenza vaccine can be given in any trimester; it would be advisable to wait till the second trimester, unless there is imminent risk of the mother to be catching ’flu. Vaccine for chicken pox should be taken at least two weeks before conception to prevent the mother from getting it during pregnancy, especially around the time of delivery.

  3. Take These Precautions When Getting the MMR Vaccine
  4. You might want to get the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine well before you start planning your family. If the mother to be received MMR vaccine in childhood, she definitely does not need any booster shots in adulthood as these vaccines provide lifelong immunity. In case, she does receive the MMR vaccine in adulthood, the mother to be should avoid conceiving till at least a month subsequently to prevent complications. Measles infection during pregnancy does not impact the fetus, but heightens the risk of miscarriage. The baby might have a low birth weight, or the mother might go into premature labor. Since Rubella (German measles) infection during pregnancy has been linked to congenital defects like poor intellectual development and cardiac defects; it is vital that any woman who has not been given the MMR vaccine earlier, receive it before planning a family.
    Prevent mumps: Add to that the adverse effects of a woman contracting mumps during pregnancy which could lead to spontaneous abortion, especially during the first trimester. The long-term ill-effects on the mother to be are equally disastrous. These could be anything from meningitis, encephalitis, and pancreatitis to mastitis and oophoritis. Therefore, you have to be careful to ensure that no pregnant woman in your family or friends gets mumps during pregnancy.

  5. Tdap Vaccine Must Be Taken Before Baby’s Arrival
  6. You always knew that mothers to be should take tetanus shots before delivery, ideally between 27 and 36 weeks of pregnancy. Have you ever thought of why it is imperative? Earlier called lockjaw, tetanus is a dangerous illness which causes convulsions or seizures, which may or may not be accompanied with muscular spasms that could even fracture bones of the spine. There could be difficulty in swallowing, or breathing. Clearly, both the expectant mother and the baby need tetanus toxoid shots as the stump of the umbilical cord might get infected with tetanus if the cord was cut with an unsterilized knife or scalpel. The other reason is that the mother might need to undergo a caesarean section delivery. Diphtheria is one of the most contagious diseases, which can have deadly outcomes. Before Tdap vaccines became common, anyone who became infected with diphtheria suffered grave breathing trouble sometimes leading to heart failure because it affects the upper and lower respiratory tract. Some suffered paralysis, or lost their lives because the diphtheria bacteria secretes a toxin which kills the layer of membrane with which it comes into contact. Whooping cough, or pertussis can be life threatening, or develop complications like pneumonia or convulsions, if a new born child or infant is infected from the mother, older siblings, or some family member. Just keep in mind that you must take Tdap shots for every pregnancy.

  7. Expectant Mothers Protect Babies in the Womb Itself Through Vaccination
  8. Passive immunization, that is the immunization a baby gets in the womb itself, protects the new born children from vaccine preventable diseases till they are old enough to be vaccinated themselves. These diseases include influenza, pertussis, and diphtheria. Expectant mothers should get the attenuated, i.e., killed influenza vaccines, especially in the ’flu season. Expectant mothers should not be given any live virus shots. Not only does it protect the little ones; getting these shots prevent complications during pregnancy, and during delivery. Consult your doctor to check whether you need to take hepatitis A and hepatitis B vaccines too. Depending on your current health status and probable risk, your doctor might advise taking the pneumococcal vaccine too.

  9. Bust These Vaccination Myths
  10. Perhaps the commonest myth peddled by the antivaxxers is that vaccination causes autism. This simply not true. There is no scientific truth in the claim as more than a dozen studies which have been conducted after 1998 ― when these claims of vaccines, especially MMR, causing autism were first made ― have failed to establish any links to even ADHD, let alone to any of diseases which come under the autism spectrum disorders. Further, there are many people who feel that they do not need any vaccines, especially the influenza vaccine as they are perfectly healthy. Unfortunately, when such ladies catch the ’flu during pregnancy, it can cause severe complications, even death. Get vaccinated as you will pass on the antibodies to your unborn child, and keep her/him safe. And, no, you will not get influenza because you took the vaccine. There might be a measure of discomfort while your body learns to fight the infection. That’s all. Do not wait till after the delivery to get the Tdap shot. It will not protect your baby from the risk of getting whooping cough since the earliest baby is going to get the triple antigen shot is at three months of age.

  11. No Vaccines Are Contraindicated During Breastfeeding
  12. If you missed getting any vaccines earlier, you can always get them while you are nursing your baby. In most cases, it will be beneficial for the baby who will receive antibodies in the milk. These include vaccines for varicella-zoster (chicken pox); pneumococcal for women who are at risk of getting pneumonia and meningitis; even Covid. Even live viruses in certain vaccines don’t get transferred into the breast milk, though antibodies are secreted in it.

  13. Weigh Your Options Before Getting These Vaccines When You Are Pregnant
  14. You must weigh the probability of exposure to a vaccine preventable disease, and the benefits of getting a toxoid or inactivated vaccine against the risks to the fetus before taking certain vaccines. These include vaccines for diseases like yellow fever, tuberculosis ― Bacille Calmette Guerin (BCG) vaccine ― typhoid, cholera, plague, anthrax, and Japanese encephalitis. However, an expectant mother who suffers from asthma, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or immunodeficiency might be recommended one or more such vaccines depending on the probability of her exposure to infection.

Content Reviewed by – Asian Hospital Medical Editors