Vaccines and pregnancy: Three things to know for expectant parents
Vaccines are part of early protection measures your baby needs from day one. Having a healthy start begins with prenatal care, and certain vaccines given to pregnant women actually extend immunity to your baby for a limited period of time after birth, too.
While pregnancy often includes complicated health decisions, the science behind expectant moms getting vaccinated is straightforward: vaccination reduces infant mortality. Your baby is more likely to have a healthy childhood when optimal healthcare, including vaccination, is available from the very beginning.
Pregnant women should receive the flu and Tdap vaccines (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis) vaccines during their third trimester, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Your doctor may recommend other immunizations such as a Hepatitis B booster or others depending on your vaccination history.
Here are three things to know about vaccination during pregnancy:
Vaccination is safe and effective: Decades of data support the safety and effectiveness of vaccines. The CDC reports that most patients do not experience side effects after routine immunizations. Federal public health agencies continue to collect reports of any side effects experienced as part of their continued due diligence. Benefits of vaccines far outweigh the risks, especially for women who will soon be welcoming an infant and are at risk of passing along significant illnesses like flu or pertussis, also known as whooping cough, to a newborn who cannot fight them off as easily as an older child. Even if you were already vaccinated during a previous pregnancy, you should be vaccinated against pertussis and the flu with each new pregnancy.
Pertussis and flu in infants may require significant medical intervention: “The younger the baby is when he or she gets whooping cough, the more likely the baby will need to be treated in a hospital,” explains the CDC. In fact, public health statistics show that about half of babies who get sick with pertussis will be hospitalized. Seasonal flu is also more likely to cause complications in pregnant women due to changes in immunity, heart and lung function during pregnancy. Complications can also lead to pre-term labor and premature birth. Babies who get sick with the flu are also more likely to develop pneumonia or experience other serious complications. Newborns are too young to be vaccinated against either illness, but some residual immunity from the mother’s vaccinations during pregnancy have been proven to offer protection after birth.
Caregivers and relatives should also be vaccinated: Dads, support partners and anyone who plans to visit the baby during the first six months of life should be vaccinated. Babysitters, nannies and other caregivers, in addition to grandparents and child siblings, should get the flu and pertussis vaccines. Although older children and adults may not show severe symptoms, newborns may have more difficulty fighting off these common illnesses.
Giving your baby a healthy start is every parent’s goal. Ask your doctor about which vaccinations you should receive during pregnancy. Find more information here from the CDC about flu and pertussis vaccines.