Protecting Your Baby’s Health Starts with Vaccines in Pregnancy
Aug 08, 2016
National Immunization Awareness Month is a reminder that we all need vaccines throughout our lives. This week we are focusing on the importance of vaccines during pregnancy. These vaccines help protect expectant mothers while also passing immunity to babies that can help protect them from disease before they are old enough to receive their own vaccines.
From the moment you found out you were pregnant, you started protecting your developing baby. You might have changed the way you eat, started taking a prenatal vitamin, or researching the kind of car seat you’ll buy. But did you know that one of the best ways to start protecting your developing baby against serious diseases is by making sure you get the whooping cough (Tdap) and flu vaccines while you are pregnant?
The vaccines you get during your pregnancy will provide your developing baby with some disease protection (immunity) that will last the first months of life after birth. By getting vaccinated during pregnancy, you can pass antibodies to your baby that may help protect against diseases. This early protection is critical for diseases like the flu and whooping cough because babies in the first several months of life are at the greatest risk of severe illness from these diseases. However, they are too young to be vaccinated themselves. Passing maternal antibodies on to them is the only way to help directly protect them.
In cases when doctors are able to determine who spread whooping cough to an infant, the mother was often the source. Once you have protection from the Tdap shot, you are less likely to give whooping cough to your newborn while caring for him or her.
When it comes to flu, even if you are generally healthy, changes in immune, heart, and lung functions during pregnancy make you more likely to have a severe case of the flu if you catch it. If you catch the flu when you are pregnant, you also have a higher chance of experiencing pregnancy complications, such as premature labor and delivery. Getting a flu shot will help protect you and your baby while you are pregnant.
You also can rest assured that these vaccines are very safe for you and your developing baby. Millions of pregnant women have safely received flu shots for many years, and the CDC continues to monitor safety data on flu vaccine in pregnant women.
The whooping cough vaccine also is very safe for you and your developing baby. Doctors and midwives who specialize in caring for pregnant women agree that the whooping cough vaccine is important to get during the third trimester of each pregnancy. Getting the vaccine during your pregnancy will not put you at increased risk for pregnancy complications.
You should get your whooping cough vaccine between your 27th and 36th week of pregnancy. You can get a flu shot during any trimester. You can get whooping cough and flu vaccines at the same time during your pregnancy or at different visits. If you are pregnant during the flu season, you should get a flu vaccine soon after vaccine is available.
If you want to learn more about pregnancy and vaccines, talk to you ob-gyn or midwife, and visit the pregnancy pages at Vaccinate Your Family and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
As the executive director of Every Child By Two, a national non-profit organization whose mission is to ensure that all families are protected from vaccine-preventable diseases, it saddens me to learn of yet another...
Written by Every Child By Two intern, Linn H. As a first year Doctoral Student in the field of Public Health, I still have a long way to go before I can put my...