September 9, 2019
The bottom line: Vaccinations before and during pregnancy are important to protect both mother and baby. Three vaccinations are recommended: flu, Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and acellular pertussis), and MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella).
Moms-to-be want to do all they can to make sure their babies arrive healthy, and vaccinations before and during pregnancy help ensure that. Vaccinations to prevent flu, whooping cough, and rubella are needed to protect baby and mom.
These vaccinations help prevent the baby from being born with birth defects or worse, reports the Texas Medical Association’s (TMA’s) Texas Medicine magazine. They also help expectant moms avoid diseases that can be more serious during pregnancy when the immune system is weakened.
“All women should get two vaccines during pregnancy – the flu and Tdap – and one vaccine before getting pregnant – the measles-mumps-rubella [MMR] vaccine,” said TMA member Kimberly Carter, MD, an Austin obstetrician-gynecologist. Some pregnant women might need additional vaccinations, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Tdap protects against tetanus, diphtheria, and acellular pertussis.
When a woman is considering pregnancy, she should check with her doctor to make sure her measles-mumps-rubella vaccination is up to date. Rubella, also called German measles, can cause serious health problems for baby, including heart disease and spina bifida. The disease also can cause blindness, deafness, and autism or other intellectual disabilities.
“Fortunately, the MMR shot protects against rubella, plus measles,” said Dr. Carter. “Pregnant women with measles can have severe complications, such as pneumonia, that can send them to the hospital.” This extra protection is particularly important now, when measles outbreaks are occurring nationwide, she added.
Measles also can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, low birth weight, and preterm delivery, or mom might pass measles on to her newborn, said Dr. Carter.
Flu during pregnancy also can result in preterm labor and birth. That’s why doctors recommend the flu shot for all pregnant women – for its benefits to mom’s and baby’s health.
“Your immune system changes during pregnancy, increasing your risk of illness, such as flu,” Dr. Carter said. “You’re more likely to be hospitalized if you get the flu during pregnancy, and you even have a higher risk of dying from the flu.”
When a vaccinated new mom breastfeeds, she passes on protection against flu to baby. And that’s important because babies can’t get a flu shot until they are 6 months old.
Another vaccination, Tdap, protects baby from whooping cough (pertussis). “You get the shot while pregnant, and pass its benefits on to your baby,” said Dr. Carter.
“That’s important because some unprotected babies die from whooping cough. With the shot, there’s also less risk the mother could be sick from pertussis at birth and pass it to her newborn.”
CDC also recommends family members get vaccinated against whooping cough before being around the baby. This “cocooning” method wraps the baby with disease protection.
There’s so much to think about when you’re pregnant, said Dr. Carter. “Getting vaccinated eliminates the risk of preventable disease, and sets baby on a course of good health.”
This release is part of a monthly TMA series highlighting contagious diseases that childhood and adult vaccinations can prevent. Some diseases covered thus far are:
TMA designed the series to inform patients of the facts about these diseases and to help them understand the benefits of vaccinations to prevent illness. Visit the TMA website to see efforts to raise immunization awareness and how funding is used to increase vaccination rates.
TMA is the largest state medical society in the nation, representing nearly 53,000 physician and medical student members. It is located in Austin and has 110 component county medical societies around the state. TMA’s key objective since 1853 is to improve the health of all Texans.
Be Wise – ImmunizeSM is a joint initiative led by TMA physicians and medical students, and the TMA Alliance. It is funded in 2019 by the TMA Foundation thanks to H-E-B, TMF Health Quality Institute, Pfizer Inc., and gifts from physicians and their families.
Be Wise – Immunize is a service mark of the Texas Medical Association.
TMA Contacts: Brent Annear (512) 370-1381; cell: (512) 656-7320
Marcus Cooper (512) 370-1382; cell: (512) 650-5336
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