In recognition of National Immunization Awareness Month in August, McFarland Clinic is sharing tips and information about vaccines for people of all ages. In this installment, we look at the importance of vaccines for pregnant women and their unborn babies.
Vaccines are an important part of a healthy pregnancy. Women should make sure they are up to date on their vaccinations before, during and after pregnancy. These vaccines protect the mother and her baby by preventing illnesses and complications. Getting vaccinated during pregnancy also allows the mother to pass some protection on to her baby.
Women who may become pregnant need to receive recommended vaccines before pregnancy. The measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine is one example. Women who have not received MMR vaccine should try to get vaccinated at least a month or more before their pregnancy begins. Rubella can cause serious problems, including pregnancy complications and birth defects.
Pregnant women should get the whooping cough vaccine during pregnancy. Whooping cough can be serious for anyone, but for a newborn it can be life threatening. Studies show that getting a whooping cough shot while pregnant helps protect the baby from getting this disease. If the baby does still get sick, the baby is less likely to develop severe complications if mom was vaccinated. When received during pregnancy, the vaccine can provide babies with early protection against whooping cough.
Pregnant women may also get a flu shot during pregnancy. Pregnant women are at high risk of hospitalization with the flu. When a pregnant woman gets a flu shot, she is protecting herself from getting sick with flu. Though not specifically examined among pregnant women, some studies suggest that flu vaccination can make illness milder among people who still get sick. Another benefit of getting a flu shot during pregnancy is that antibodies are passed on to the baby. Children younger than 6 months old are too young to get a flu vaccine, but they are at high risk of serious flu complications, including being hospitalized with flu. Getting vaccinated during pregnancy can provide the baby with some flu protection that lasts for several months after birth.
In some cases, women may also need vaccinations after giving birth. Pregnancy is also a good time for mothers to start learning about vaccines for children. There are many vaccines that protect babies and young children.