Flu Season is Coming. Are Vaccines Safe in Pregnancy?
Vaccination is an important topic to discuss with your doctor if you are considering pregnancy or are already expecting. Being up to date on your vaccines is an important step in planning the birth of your child. There are vaccines that should be considered prior to pregnancy such as Rubella, which can be discussed with your health care provider. The focus of this article is to discuss the vaccines primarily given during pregnancy. Vaccines are a safe way to develop immunity, which will keep you safe from disease.
There are also vaccines to avoid during pregnancy and those include: Hepatitis A, Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR), Varicella, Pneumococcal Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) and Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IPV). Vaccines that contain live viruses aren’t recommended for pregnant women either.
Recommended Vaccines in Pregnancy:
Flu season typically occurs from October thru May in the United States; however influenza infection can occur at any time throughout the year. Pregnant women represent a vulnerable population with regard to influenza and therefore vaccination is an essential part of prenatal care. Flu vaccines have been given safely to millions of pregnant women for more than 50 years. Extensive research has gone into and continues in this area.
Influenza “flu” is a contagious disease. Coughing, sneezing, or nasal secretions can spread it. Symptoms include fever, chills, cough, headaches, muscle aches and fatigue. The flu can make existing medical conditions worse. The flu season accounts for significant health care costs as well as lost wages due to absence from work. Influenza viruses are always changing so annual vaccination is recommended. Each year scientists work to match the viruses in the vaccine to those most likely to cause the flu that year. Flu vaccines will not prevent disease from other viruses and it takes up to two weeks for immunity to develop after receiving the vaccination.
Unfortunately, pregnant women are at increased risk of complications from influenza infection especially in the third trimester. Serious respiratory infections can occur and require intensive care support and even death has occurred due to complications from the flu. Jackson had fatalities due to the influenza virus in 2013-2014, so we know that even our city does not go untouched. The newborn will also receive benefits from a mom receiving the vaccine. Infants cannot receive many vaccines until 2-6 months of age. Maternity immunity thru antibodies can be transferred to your infant; thus helping protect your baby from illness during the first few months of life.
Pertussis (also called the whooping cough) is a highly infectious bacterial disease. Adults can develop severe symptoms, but infants, particularly those younger than four months, are at increased risk with mortality at one percent of affected newborns. This is another example where a mother’s vaccination actually provides protection to her baby. All family members and planned direct caregivers should be vaccinated for the whooping cough. Revised guidelines recommend that health care providers administer this vaccine during each pregnancy to maximize maternal antibody response and passive antibody transfer to the newborn. Optimal timing for the Pertussis vaccine or Tdap administration is between 27 and 36 weeks of pregnancy although the Tdap may be given at any time during pregnancy. There have been no adverse fetal effects noted with this vaccine.
W. Franklin Pierce, IV