A Guide About Getting Vaccinated during Pregnancy-Risks, Safety Tips and recommendations
All of you probably already know that you are directly connected to your baby while you’re pregnant and share everything with it. That goes for your vaccination, too! As your diseases affect your baby, so do the shots you get to treat them. Your immunity is the first shield for your baby against some deadly diseases. Therefore, pregnancy vaccination is essential. It is crucial for a pregnant mother to have complete knowledge of which vaccination is safe for her and her baby and which is not.
Yes, that’s true: some vaccines are not safe during your pregnancy term. They can adversely affect your baby and cause an aberration in the process of its growth leading to various physical and mental abnormalities in the child. You definitely don’t want it! So get yourself acquainted with what is recommended in this state. Read on!
Can Vaccination be Harmful?
Yes, it can be! You need to know that all vaccines are not same. The difference lies in their composition, on the basis of which they are divided into three types:
- Live virus (also known as attenuated vaccine in which the power of a disease-causing-organism/agent is reduced while it is still kept live)
- Dead virus (also called inactivated vaccine or killed vaccine in which pathogens are grown and then killed using heat or chemical) and…
- Toxoids (vaccines in which chemical is used to inactivate the toxin extracted from bacteria).
Of all three, attenuated or live virus vaccines are considered harmful to a pregnant mother and her child as the pathogens can enter the bloodstream and harm the baby in irreparable ways. On the other hand, inactivated vaccines and toxoids are deemed harmless. However, before getting any vaccine, always consult your doctor for the best advice. Here is a summary of which vaccine comes under which type:
Attenuated/Live-Virus Vaccines—measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR), chickenpox vaccine
Inactivated/Dead-Virus Vaccines—flu shot
Toxoid Vaccines—tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis (Tdap) shot
MMR is considered harmful to the unborn baby, so the doctors do not recommend its use. However, it is considerably safer to get this vaccine a month or so before pregnancy in which case it does not have a direct effect on the child.
Measles, Mumps, Rubella Vaccine (MMR) and Pregnancy
According to CDC, the risk posed to pregnant women and the fetus by attenuated vaccination is theoretical. However, doctors still do not recommend the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR) to rule out any possible harm to the baby.
“Benefits of vaccinating pregnant women usually outweigh potential risks when the likelihood of disease exposure is high, when infection would pose a risk to the mother or fetus, and when the vaccine is unlikely to cause harm.” (CDC. General recommendations on immunization: recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). MMWR 2011; 60 (No. 2): 26).
The question arises: why is MMR not safe during pregnancy? It is because it is made from live pathogens which may multiply inside the mother’s body. Even though these organisms are made less harmful through certain processes, they are still not entirely harmless. The mother and the unborn child share the same blood, so the pathogens are transferred to the growing fetus and may cause complications. However, contracting a rubella infection (German measles) is also not desirable since it may lead to certain birth defects (blindness, hearing problem, mental retardation, etc.), miscarriage, stillbirth and premature birth. Therefore, it is imperative to get the vaccine a month or so BEFORE pregnancy so that the theoretical harmful effects may decrease by the time you get pregnant.
Recommended Shots during Pregnancy
While MMR is contraindicated, certain other vaccines are recommended by the doctors as they are highly important for a pregnant mother.
Flu Shot (Inactivated)
When a woman gets pregnant, her immune system undergoes dramatic changes making her more vulnerable to diseases than a woman who is not pregnant. Therefore, there is a higher possibility for her to contract influenza which can aggravate into complications like pneumonia, especially during the second half of the pregnancy term. For that reason, inactivated influenza shot is a must-have for pregnant women, especially during the influenza season which is November to March. The best time to get a flu shot is in October before the disease season hits with full force. Also, do NOT rely on the last year’s vaccination: viruses are tricky creatures, and flu strains change every year, so get a new vaccination every time the influenza season is close.
Flu shots are inactivated vaccines, that is, they contain dead organisms which pose no risks to the mother and the child. Hence, Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends taking a flu vaccine during pregnancy as a measure to protect the mother and the unborn child from undesirable complications. The American College of Obstetricians has also published a statement confirming that flu shots are safe during pregnancy.
Tetanus, Diphtheria, and Pertussis (Tdap) Shot
Pertussis (whooping cough) saw a rise in U.S. in 2013 which led the doctors to add its vaccine to already-available tetanus/diphtheria booster (Td). Since then, it has been recommended for pregnant mothers to get tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis shot (Tdap) instead of a simple Td. This vaccine is a toxoid (harmless, chemically altered bacterial proteins) so it does not harm the unborn baby. Although the vaccine can be taken any time during pregnancy, the preferred time is somewhere between 6 and 9 months after getting pregnant.
Tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis are dangerous diseases which can cause paralysis, coma and may lead to fetal death if contracted during pregnancy. Therefore, you must get this shot at all costs. However, if you have started showing symptoms and think you have somehow caught any of these diseases, don’t panic. Contact your doctor at once! Things can be easily controlled at early stages.
Other Vaccines that can be Taken during Pregnancy
Different diseases are contracted in different places and circumstances, so doctors have made many different vaccines which are essential to maintaining your health and the wellbeing of your child. According to CDC, following vaccines can be taken during pregnancy in specified
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
- Pneumococcal vaccine
- VI Polysaccharide
Note: Self-vaccination is never a wise decision. Before taking any vaccine, always consult a registered doctor. Give him/her full information about your condition so that s/he can prescribe the best vaccine according to your needs.
The Last Word
Everything mentioned above is for your information only. It is not intended to diagnose or treat any health-related condition mainly. Always seek the direct advice of your doctor in case of any questions or issues about your health or the health of others.
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