Important Vaccines for Pregnant Women to Consider
- Rubella (German measles): Rubella infection in pregnant women can cause unborn babies to have serious birth defects with devastating, life-long consequences, or even die before birth. Make sure you have a pre-pregnancy blood test to see if you are immune to the disease. Most women were vaccinated as children with the combination measles, mumps, rubella vaccine (MMR) but you should confirm this with your doctor. If you need to get vaccinated for rubella, you should avoid becoming pregnant until one month after receiving the MMR vaccine and, ideally, not until your immunity is confirmed by a blood test.
Hepatitis B: Hepatitis B is a serious liver disease that can lead to an incurable chronic (long term) infection that may result in liver damage and liver cancer. A baby whose mother has hepatitis B is at highest risk for becoming infected with hepatitis B during delivery. The Hepatitis B virus is spread through exposure to blood or body fluids. If you live with someone infected with hepatitis B, talk to your health care professional about getting testing for hepatitis B and whether or not you should be vaccinated.
- Whooping cough (Pertussis): Whooping cough (pertussis) is one of the most common vaccine-preventable diseases in the United States. It is caused by bacteria that spread easily from person to person through personal contact, coughing, and sneezing. It can be very serious for babies and can cause them to stop breathing. Hundreds of babies are hospitalized each year for whooping cough, and some die from it. Many infants who get pertussis catch it from their older brothers and sisters, or from their parents — who might not even know they have the disease. Pregnant women should receive one dose of Tdap (the adult whooping cough shot) later in pregnancy — to protect themselves and their baby. All family members and caregivers of new infants should also get vaccinated with Tdap.
- Flu: It is safe, and very important, for a woman who is pregnant during flu season to receive the inactivated flu vaccine. A pregnant woman who gets the flu is at risk for serious complications and pregnant woman with flu also have a greater chance for serious problems for their unborn baby, including premature labor and delivery. Pregnant women can receive the flu shot at any time, during any trimester. In addition, because babies younger than 6 months are too young to receive flu vaccine, it is important that everyone who cares for your baby also get a flu vaccine. You should continue to get a yearly flu vaccine as the first and most important step in protecting you and your family against flu viruses.
Vaccines for Travel: If you are pregnant and planning international travel, you should talk to your doctor at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to discuss any special precautions or vaccines that you may need. Many vaccine-preventable diseases that are rare in the United States are still common in other parts of the world. Depending on where you plan to travel, you may need additional vaccinations. However, there are some vaccines that should be avoided during pregnancy, so it’s best to weigh the risks and benefits of vaccination based on your destination.
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