One of the greatest breakthroughs in modern medicine, vaccines are the best tool to prevent infectious diseases. If you are having a baby or planning a pregnancy, you should learn about immunization and its importance to your child and you! You should know that there are many diseases that could affect you or your baby, are preventable through immunization.
- Vaccinating your baby according to the recommended immunization schedule gives him the best protection against 14 serious childhood illnesses before he is 2 years old.
- Vaccines are safe. For every 100,000 doses of vaccines given, only one to two will result in serious adverse reactions.
Importance and safety of immunization before and during pregnancy
Some diseases are particularly harmful to pregnant women and their babies. Many of these can be prevented through immunization. When you are pregnant, you share everything with your baby that means when you get vaccines, you aren’t just protecting yourself – you are giving your baby some early protection too. You can save your baby from infections for the first six to 12 months of life. There are certain guidelines for the vaccines you need before, during, and after pregnancy. Live, attenuated virus and live bacterial vaccines generally are contraindicated during pregnancy.
Benefits of immunization when you are pregnant usually outweigh potential risks when the likelihood of disease exposure is high therefore it is safe for you to receive vaccines right after giving birth, even while you are breastfeeding.
Vaccines to consider before and during pregnancy
Consider the advice of your health-care professional to ensure that your immunizations are up to date if you are planning your pregnancy.
Rubella (German measles) can be very dangerous early in your pregnancy and for your unborn baby. Infection can lead to complications such as deafness, cataract, cardiac defect, bone damage, mental retardation, and enlargement of the liver and spleen. Before you conceive, get your immunity to rubella tested. It is often given as a combined measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine. Because this is a live-attenuated vaccine, it is not given during pregnancy and you should wait at least four weeks after getting the vaccine before trying to conceive.
2. Hepatitis B
Your job, lifestyle or health history may put you at increased risk to become infected with hepatitis B and you should be immunized against hepatitis B if you have not been before. The virus could be transferred to your baby and can pose risks for cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer.
Pregnant women are at increased risk of hospitalization and serious complications from H1N1 influenza. The seasonal flu vaccine is safe for pregnant women and is recommended for those who will be pregnant during flu season. Being immunized will also help protect your baby through his or her first few months of life.
4. Tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis
Tetanus and tetanus-diphtheria (Td) vaccines are well-established as being safe for pregnant women. Recently, the Td vaccine has been combined with a pertussis vaccine, known as the Tdap vaccine. Pertussis (whooping cough) can be serious for anyone, but for your newborn, it can be life-threatening and with the vaccine antibodies made by your body will provide your baby with some short-term, early protection against whooping cough.
5. Other vaccines
If you have a history of a chronic liver disease, your doctor may recommend the hepatitis A vaccine. If you need to travel abroad during pregnancy, 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. If you are travelling to a country where you may be exposed to a meningococcal disease, your doctor may recommend the meningococcal vaccine.
Protection for your baby through immunization
It is important for your child to be fully immunized. Diseases that can be prevented with vaccines can be very serious for infants and young children. The recommended immunization schedule for babies includes vaccination protection against all of the following diseases:
- Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
- Pertussis (whooping cough)
- Pneumococcal disease
- Rubella (German measles)
- Tetanus (lockjaw)
- Varicella (chickenpox)
Did you know?
Influenza is a serious disease that kills 300,000 – 500,000 people worldwide every year. Vaccinating pregnant women with influenza vaccine is effective and provides the added benefit of protecting their newborns.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed Aug 12, 2016.
- Immunization Action Coalition. Accessed Aug 13, 2016.
- The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada. Accessed Aug 13, 2016.