Healthy Tip Tuesday – The importance of prenatal immunizations

(7 Minute Read) – Dennison, Ohio – February is International Prenatal Infection Prevention Month and Trinity Hospital Twin City is reminding moms-to-be of the importance of immunizations and regular checkups.

While Trinity Hospital Twin City does not provide prenatal care, medical professionals alike agree on the importance of vaccines when it comes to preventable illnesses. Prenatal infections may include bacterial or viral illnesses and can be passed from others to her baby during pregnancy or during the delivery process.

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In 2016, it was estimated that approximately 2.6 million infants died within the first month of life, and approximately 700,000 infants die each year due to infectious diseases. Though the United States has made significant progress, according to the National Association of County and City Officials, in reducing the incidence of prenatal disease transmission, officials note it is still a significant priority.

Maternal Immunizations – An Effective Approach to Prevention Prenatal Infections

The organization goes on to explain that vaccine-preventable diseases such as hepatitis B, rubella, and varicella pose significant prenatal risks for mother and baby, however, maternal immunization remains an effective and promising mechanism by which to prevent infection, which may be transmitted to the baby.

The following recommendations are courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Vaccines Before Pregnancy

Before you become pregnant, learn how to protect yourself and your child from serious diseases. Talk to your healthcare professional to make sure you’re up to date on all your vaccines.

Find your vaccination record

It’s important to keep an accurate record of your vaccinations. Sharing this information with your pre-conception and prenatal healthcare professionals will help determine which vaccines you’ll need before and during pregnancy. If you or your healthcare professionals do not have a current record of your vaccinations, you can:

  • Ask your parents or other caregivers if they still have your school immunization records. Ask them which childhood illnesses you’ve already had because illnesses in childhood can sometimes provide immunity in adulthood.
  • Contact your previous healthcare professional or other locations where you may have received vaccinations (e.g., the health department, your workplace, or local pharmacies).

See our article on how to locate and keep track of vaccine records if you need more tips on how to find them. Even if you can’t find your records, your healthcare professional can still protect your health and your baby by recommending the appropriate vaccines. Answer a few questions using our Adult Vaccine Self-Assessment Tool to find out which vaccines you may need before becoming pregnant.

Make sure your vaccination record is up to date

Even before becoming pregnant, make sure you are up to date on all your vaccines. Being up to date will help protect you and your child from serious, preventable diseases. For example, rubella is a contagious disease that can be dangerous if you get it while you are pregnant. It can cause a miscarriage or serious birth defects.

Protect yourself against rubella with the MMR vaccine

The best protection against rubella is the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine. If you aren’t up to date with the MMR vaccine, you’ll need it before you get pregnant. Make sure you have a pre-pregnancy blood test to see if you are immune to the disease. Most women were vaccinated with the MMR vaccine as children but confirm with your doctor or other healthcare professional.

Vaccines During and After Pregnancy

A pregnant woman should get vaccinated against whooping cough and flu during each pregnancy to protect herself and her baby, with immunity for the first few months of life.

Protect mom and baby with vaccines

Did you know a baby gets disease immunity (protection) from mom during pregnancy? This immunity can protect baby from some diseases during the first few months of life, but immunity decreases over time.

Get a whooping cough vaccine and a flu shot during each pregnancy

Moms, get a whooping cough vaccine (also called Tdap) and a flu shot during each pregnancy. Use our Adult Vaccine Self-Assessment Tool  to get a customized printout of recommended vaccines to take to the next medical appointment.

Whooping cough

Whooping cough, known as pertussis, can be serious for anyone, but for a newborn, it can be life-threatening.

  • About 7 in 10 deaths from whooping cough are among babies younger than 2 months old. These babies are too young to be protected by their own vaccination. The younger the baby is when they gets whooping cough, the more likely they will need to be treated in a hospital.
  • It may be hard to know if a baby has whooping cough because many babies with this disease don’t cough at all. Instead, it can cause them to stop breathing and turn blue.

When a pregnant woman gets a whooping cough vaccine during pregnancy, her body will create protective antibodies and pass some of them to the baby before birth. These antibodies will provide the baby some short-term, early protection against whooping cough.  CDC recommends getting a whooping cough shot during the 27th through 36th week of each pregnancy, preferably during the early part of earlier part of this time period.

Flu

Pregnant women are more likely to have severe illness from flu, possibly due to changes in immune, heart, and lung functions during pregnancy.

Get a flu shot during pregnancy during flu season—it’s the best way for a pregnant woman to protect against the flu and protect the baby for several months after birth from flu-related complications. Get a flu shot anytime during each pregnancy.

CDC recommends getting a flu vaccine by the end of October despite flu seasons varying in their timing from season to season. This timing helps protect a pregnant woman before flu activity begins to increase.

Other vaccines

Some women may need other vaccines before, during, or after they become pregnant. For example, if a pregnant woman works in a lab or is traveling to a country where she may be exposed to meningococcal disease, her doctor or healthcare professional may recommend meningococcal vaccination.

  • Hepatitis B: A baby whose mother has hepatitis B is at highest risk for becoming infected with hepatitis B during delivery. Moms, talk to your healthcare professional about getting tested for hepatitis B and whether or not you should get vaccinated.
  • Hepatitis A: For pregnant women who have a history of chronic liver disease, doctors or healthcare professionals may recommend the hepatitis A vaccine.
  • Vaccines for travel: Pregnant women planning international travel should talk to their doctor or healthcare professional at least 4 to 6 weeks before their trip to discuss any special precautions or necessary vaccines. See Traveler’s Health for additional tips on how to prepare to travel safely.

Vaccines after childbirth

Healthcare professionals may recommend some women receive certain vaccines right after giving birth. Postpartum vaccination will help protect moms from getting sick, and they will pass some antibodies to the baby through breastmilk if they are able to breastfeed. Vaccination after pregnancy is especially important if moms did not receive certain vaccines before or during pregnancy.

However, moms will not get protective antibodies immediately if they wait to get vaccinated until after birth. This is because it takes about 2 weeks after getting vaccinated before the body develops antibodies.

The baby will also start to get his or her own vaccines to protect against serious childhood diseases.

More information can be found here.

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