When you’re preparing to have a baby, part of your planning should include how you will protect you and your child with vaccinations, starting before birth.
“During pregnancy, vaccinated mothers pass on protective antibodies — infection-fighting molecules — to their babies before they are born,” the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says. “This provides some immunity against certain vaccine-preventable diseases during their first few months of life, when your baby is still too young to be vaccinated.”
The first step is sharing your vaccination history with your doctor. If you are unsure about what vaccines you have received, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer a few tips:
- Ask parents or caregivers for records of childhood immunizations
- Look through baby books and saved documents from childhood
- Check with your high school and college health services
- Check with previous employers (including the military) that required immunizations
- Check with your doctor or public health clinic
- Ask your state health department if it keeps immunization records
Once you know your history, you can stay up to date on vaccinations before, during and after your pregnancy.
Prevent dangerous illnesses while pregnant by catching up on vaccinations. For example, you were likely vaccinated with the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine as a child, but you can ask for a pre-pregnancy blood test to see if you are immune. Doing so will prevent you from catching and passing along the diseases.
“Congenital rubella syndrome is a condition that occurs in a developing baby in the womb whose mother is infected with the rubella virus,” the CDC says. “Pregnant women who contract rubella are at risk for miscarriage or stillbirth, and their developing babies are at risk for severe birth defects with devastating, lifelong consequences.”
During each of your pregnancies (not just the first one), getting the flu and whooping cough vaccines will safeguard you and your growing child.
Whooping cough, or pertussis, is extremely contagious and easily preventable with a Tdap vaccine during the third trimester. The most commonly affected people are less than 3 months old, according to research published in The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal, but infants do not receive their first vaccine against the disease until they are 2 months.
“This situation leaves a window of significant vulnerability for newborns, many of whom appear to contract serious pertussis infections from family members and caregivers, including the mother,” the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says.
Additionally, the flu is more likely to cause severe illness in pregnant women, compared to other women, according to the CDC. Pregnant women who get the flu can go into premature labor and have babies with birth defects. A flu shot is a simple solution that has not been shown to cause any harm to pregnant women or their babies.
“The flu shot given during pregnancy has been shown to protect both the mother and her baby for several months after birth from flu,” the CDC says.
In addition to these two vaccines, you may need vaccination against other diseases, including hepatitis B and anything you may contract while traveling.
Vaccinations after pregnancy should include any you did not get before or during pregnancy. For example, if you did not have an MMR vaccine before you were pregnant, research shows you can get one while breast-feeding, as your child will not be infected or will feel only a weak effect.
“Although rubella vaccine virus might be excreted into milk, the virus usually does not infect the infant,” according to drugs.com. “If an infection does occur, it is well tolerated because the viruses are attenuated. No clear evidence exists of live attenuated measles or mumps vaccine virus excretion into breastmilk.”
Ask your doctor about other vaccines you may need, and remember to vaccinate your child according to CDC recommendations as well.
Sinclair Broadcasting is committed to the health and well-being of our viewers, which is why we’re introducing Sinclair Cares. Every month we’ll bring you information about the “Cause of the Month,” including topical information, education, awareness and prevention.