Women

Your Pregnancy After 35 : Your Current Medical Condition and Medications (part 5) - Immunizations and Vaccinations during Pregnancy

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Immunizations and Vaccinations during Pregnancy

Immunizations and vaccinations protect you from diseases. A vaccine is given to provide you with protection against infection and is usually given by injection or taken orally. Each dose of a vaccine contains a very small amount of a weak-ened form of the disease. When you receive a vaccine, your immune system forms antibodies to fight the disease in the future. In most cases, this is enough to keep you from getting a disease. However, in some cases, it doesn’t prevent the disease entirely but greatly reduces severity of the symptoms.

Vaccines come in three forms—live virus, killed (dead) virus and toxoids (chemically altered proteins from bacteria that are harmless). Most vaccines are made from killed viruses; it’s impossible to get the disease after receiving this type of vaccine. With a live-virus vaccine, the virus is so weakened that if your immune system is normal, you probably won’t get sick from it.

Many women of childbearing age in the United States and Canada have been immunized against measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus and diphtheria. A blood test for measles is necessary to determine immunity. The diagnosis of rubella is difficult without a blood test. Physician-diagnosed mumps or a mumps vaccination is necessary evidence of immunity.

Risk of Exposure

During pregnancy, try to decrease your chance of exposure to disease and illness. Avoid visiting areas known to have diseases. Avoid people (usually children) with known illnesses. It’s impossible to avoid all exposure. If you have been exposed, or if exposure is unavoidable, the risk of the disease must be balanced against the potential harmful effects of vaccination.

Can I get a flu shot while I’m pregnant?

Yes, you can. In fact, most healthcare providers recommend a pregnant woman receive a flu shot while she’s pregnant.

A vaccine must be evaluated in terms of its effectiveness and potential for complicating pregnancy. There is little information available on harmful effects on the developing fetus from vaccines. However, we know live-measles vaccine should never be given to a pregnant woman.

Vaccinations to Protect You during Pregnancy

The only immunizing agents recommended for use during pregnancy are the Tdap vaccine and the flu vaccine. The Tdap vaccine (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis) can help you avoid whooping cough. Be sure to get a Tdap booster if it’s been 10 years or more since your last one. In addition, if you work in the garden, with your hands in dirt, you need a booster.

Get a flu shot during pregnancy. If you get the flu during pregnancy, you have a greater chance of complications, such as pneumonia. Experts recommend all women who will be pregnant during flu season get a flu shot. A flu shot can protect you against three strains of influenza. Flu shots can be given safely during all three trimesters. Talk to your healthcare provider about it.

Other Vaccines during Pregnancy

As many as 35% of all pregnant women are at risk of contracting measles, mumps or rubella because they haven’t been vaccinated or they have been vaccinated but their immunity has weakened. However, vaccination for measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) should be administered only when you are practicing birth control. You must continue to use contraception for at least 4 weeks after receiving this immunization.

A pregnant woman should receive primary vaccination against polio only if her risk of exposure to the disease is high. Only inactivated polio vaccine should be used.

If your healthcare provider believes you may be at risk for contracting hepatitis B, it’s safe to take the vaccine during pregnancy. Talk with your healthcare provider if you have concerns.

If you have lung problems, asthma or heart problems, you may want to talk to your healthcare provider about the pneumococcal vaccine to protect you against bacteria that can cause pneumonia, meningitis and ear infections. A plus to taking this vaccine: One study showed antibodies you make after taking the vaccine pass to your baby and can protect him or her from ear infections for up to 6 months!

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