OB-GYNs Have Critical Role in Immunizations for Women
Apr 19, 2011

It’s about time that we provide immunization information to the patients that need it most through the doctors they see the most.  I’m referring to women and their ob-gyns.

When you stop and think about it, most women visit their ob-gyns quite regularly.  If women are pregnant they see them rather frequently.  In my personal experience, over the course of multiple pregnancies, there were years when my ob-gyn was the only doctor I saw; which is why it makes perfect sense for these  healthcare providers to be initiating immunization conversations with women.
However, to be completely honest, none of my ob-gyns ever offered, or even discussed, immunizations with me.  Not one over the course of five pregnancies.  As a result, I never knew about protections I could have taken. Additionally, I didn’t begin considering the importance of protecting my children with recommended vaccines until after they were born.
Hopefully, the times they are a changin’.
One positive sign comes from the American College of  Obstetricians and Gynecologists and their Immunization for Women campaign.  This particular website was designed “to provide ob-gyns and their patients with a central, trusted source of up-to-date information on seasonal flu and other vaccine-preventable diseases, including immunization facts and safety, immunization schedules, clinical and practice management guidelines, and links to other reliable immunization resources.”
What’s interesting about this site is that it attempts to provide women with the knowledge they need to make informed decisions about their personal immunizations.  Additionally, this site also works to strengthen the role of the obstetrician-gynecologist in providing appropriate immunizations information to both adolescent and adult women.

Of specific interest are immunizations for pregnant women.  When expecting a child, it’s only natural to have a heightened concern about your own personal health and ways to protect the health of the new life growing inside you.  In these circumstances, an ob-gyns’ immunization suggestions can make a direct impact on both the mother and her child.  For instance, the influenza vaccine, when administered to a pregnant women, is believed to benefit the baby in those first few months after birth, during the time before they can receive their own influenza vaccine.  In the case of pertussis, we again recognize the importance of cocooning a newborn child by suggesting that parents and other close family members received a pertussis booster before the baby is born when possible.  In these instances, ob-gyns could help educate women as to why they might want this Tdap booster either before they become pregnant or immediately after birth.
Perhaps, by beginning the immunization conversation with a pregnant women at such a critical time, ob-gyns can open the door for women to consider the importance of childhood immunizations.  Think about it.  If a women begins to see the value of immunizations for herself and her child during pregnancy, than they may be more apt to take the same steps to protect their child after birth.  Additionally, they have more time to research the recommended immunization schedule and perhaps even begin conversations with pediatricians they are considering.
Fortunately, there are certain ob-gyns that have a keen understanding of just how important vaccines are.  Take for instance Dr. Amy Tuteur, of The SkepticalOB blog, and her recent article in The Boston Globe.  Here she highlights the importance of vaccines to public health and exposes the dangers behind Andrew Wakefield’s actions, but she often blogs about immunization issues and the threat of vaccine rejectionists.
Hopefully, more ob-gyns will take an active part in the vaccination dialogue, both online and with their own patients.  While there may be other resources for them, I admire the efforts of the Immunizations for Women website, for suggesting further education and training for these critical care-givers, as well as for offering information for patients.    The site even offers e-mail updates and alert notifications for those who want to stay up-to-date with critical immunization topics for women.
Be sure to visit the Immunizations for Women website today and feel free to inform us of other helpful resources for women’s immunizations below.  If your an OB-GYN, we would love to hear your opinions on how OB-GYNs can help immunization efforts and what you feel your challenges and limitations are when discussing or offering immunizations to your patients.

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