Safe & Unsafe Vaccines for Pregnant Women
The moment you learn about your pregnancy, you will do everything within your power to make sure your baby is safe. However, while the external environmental factors may be taken care of, internal factors such as immunity are often ignored.
Your baby’s immune system is compromised (or weak) during pregnancy, which is why mothers pass on antibodies to the foetus during pregnancy. Although antibodies provide protection against infections to a certain degree, there are others which bypass them and manage to affect the foetus. Here’s what you must know about vaccination during pregnancy.
Why Is Vaccination Essential in Pregnancy?
When your baby is in the womb, he/she is too young for vaccination. Therefore, mothers are required to get vaccinated to protect the foetus from vaccine-preventable infections. Vaccinations also prevent the spreading of contractible/communicable diseases throughout communities/neighbourhoods and reduce the likelihood of various birth defects and growth abnormalities in the foetus. Your chances of early labour/delivery are minimized, and your baby stays protected throughout the pregnancy.
Are Vaccine Ingredients Safe?
Every vaccine is tested under the safety and supervision guidelines of the FDA. Purity, dosage and potency are checked before enabling them to be administered for use. Some vaccines contain ingredients like eggs, such as the influenza vaccine, which may cause allergic reactions in some pregnant women. Hence, a consultation with the doctor is recommended.
Can Vaccine Be Harmful to Your Unborn Baby?
Some vaccines, such as live vaccines, may be harmful to your unborn baby. Other vaccines are administered to the pregnant mother during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy, while the rest are given immediately after the baby is born.
Which Vaccines Are Recommended When Pregnant?
If you are pregnant, consider taking the following vaccines after consulting with your doctor:
Rubella is unsafe to take during pregnancies. Get a pre-pregnancy rubella test to check whether you have this virus in your body. If you do, then get a rubella vaccination and wait for at least a month before trying to get pregnant.
2. Hepatitis B Vaccine
Hepatitis B is a severe infection caused by a virus that leads to chronic liver disease, fatigue, nausea, and in extreme cases, even death. Mothers require vaccination before pregnancy in order to keep their babies protected and safe. Get tested for this virus before your pregnancy to confirm and opt for this vaccination since you may already have the virus in your body without even realizing it. If you live close to someone who is infected with Hepatitis B, consider getting this vaccination since the virus is contractible in nature.
Note: If the mother is already infected with the Hepatitis B virus, she will not get the vaccine as she is already infected, and the vaccine won’t work. If the father is positive and the mother is negative, then the ‘to-be’ mother will get vaccinated before she gets pregnant. If the mother is infected and has not received the vaccination, then the newly born baby is vaccinated immediately after birth (even before starting breastfeeding). It is highly recommended to discuss with the doctor if you aren’t vaccinated for Hep B.
Here is a list of vaccines mothers are expected to take during pregnancy –
3. Flu Shot
The flu leads to serious complications like pneumonia after pregnancy, and many mothers face pregnancy complications like early labour and delivery which may lead to low birth weights and growth abnormalities in babies. Get the flu shot to stay protected and ensure that your baby doesn’t get affected by the flu even months after your pregnancy.
The flu shot can be taken in any trimester of pregnancy.
4. Whooping Cough
Whooping cough transforms into a life-threatening complication with your baby landing up in the hospital after being born. Doctors recommend the time of vaccination during pregnancy for whooping cough to be between 27 to 36 weeks or during the early third trimester of pregnancy. Since your baby isn’t old enough to get a whooping cough vaccination himself, it is best recommended that you take it as early as you can (within the permissible time period) during your pregnancy. Tdap vaccine is suitable during pregnancy and covers diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus shots in the same vaccine and protects against whooping cough.
Which Vaccines Should Be Avoided in Pregnancy?
The following vaccines should be avoided by pregnant women-
1. Hepatitis A
The safety and potency of this vaccination haven’t been tested thoroughly, but the theoretical risk to the fetus is low. Mothers with a high risk for exposure to this virus should consult their doctors for risks and benefits before opting for this vaccine.
2. MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella)
This is a live-virus vaccine, and going through initial rubella tests will reveal whether or not you’re immune to the rubella virus. If you are not immune to rubella, then you will be given this virus only after delivery. It is advisable that you don’t get pregnant for 28 days if you get vaccinated with this vaccine. This vaccine is not administered during pregnancy.
Varicella is a vaccine that’s designed to be administered one month before pregnancy. It’s used to prevent chickenpox in babies and is not suitable for use during pregnancy.
4. HPV Vaccine
The human papillomavirus virus vaccination is unsuitable for use during pregnancy.
Due to the unknown nature of the safety of this vaccine, it is not ideal for pregnant women. Only women who are at high risk of chronic illnesses must consult a doctor before opting for this vaccine.
6. Oral Polio Vaccine (POV) And Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IPV)
Both versions of the Polio vaccine (live and inactive) are not recommended to be administered to pregnant women.
Getting any of the above-unwanted vaccinations may result in birth defects, miscarriage and premature birth, and may cause various complications during pregnancy.
Side Effects After Taking Vaccination
Although the risks are outweighed by the benefits, you may experience the following side effects after receiving any of the above vaccinations for pregnancy-
- Pain in the area of vaccination
- Aches in the body
- Rash (uncommon)
- Stomach ache
If you are planning to travel abroad to places with vaccine-preventable infections, then consult your doctor and ask about any other vaccinations you require prior to your pregnancy.
Your foetus has an immunocompromised system, and it’s a good idea to get yourself vaccinated before getting pregnant. Make sure you take the required vaccinations before and during pregnancy to have safe and stress-free labour. Although no vaccination is fool-proof against the plethora of infections and diseases, we have there out in the world; it’s safe to assume that your little one will stay protected from the most common ones out there. We hope you have a safe pregnancy. Remember to stay relaxed and enjoy motherhood to the fullest.