the greatest gift.
even before birth.
Getting vaccinated during pregnancy is the first way to start protecting your unborn baby from influenza (flu) and pertussis (whooping cough). While they cannot get sick with flu or whooping cough while in your womb, they can be negatively affected if you get sick.
Both flu and whooping cough:
Flu can be more serious during pregnancy due to changes in your body and immune system.
Courtesy: Parents of Kids with Infectious Diseases (PKIDs)
Infants are at the greatest risk of severe complications from both flu and whooping cough, and here are two personal stories describing what can happen when a baby catches these diseases. These stories emphasize the importance of getting vaccinated against flu and whooping cough during pregnancy.
Courtesy: Families Fighting Flu
To protect against flu, pregnant women should get the inactivated flu shot, not the nasal spray form of the vaccine. The sooner you get the shot, the better. CDC recommends that the flu shot can be given at any point during pregnancy. The flu season in the United States runs from September – May. Flu shots are often available by September, and in some cases even in August. Whether you are pregnant at any point during flu season, or are planning to have your baby during flu season, it is important to get your vaccine.
The Tdap shot is the vaccine which protects you from whooping cough. While it’s safe to get Tdap any time during pregnancy, it’s best to wait until your second or third trimester (20 weeks or later) to make sure your fetus gets the most antibodies it can right before birth.
Yes. It is not contraindicated to get both shots at the same visit.
If your doctor has not explicitly offered or talked to you about the flu or Tdap shots, then you should ask about them. More and more OB/GYN practices are encouraging every patient—especially pregnant patients—to be up to date on their vaccines. Your doctor or nurse will be happy to answer your questions, address your concerns, give professional advice, and if possible, give you your shots!
The flu shot that is recommended for pregnant moms is the inactivated flu shot that is given in your arm with a needle. This shot either contains inactivated split flu virus parts or inactivated viral subunits. It is these purified parts of the virus that your immune system recognizes and uses to make the antibodies needed to protect you from actually getting the flu.
The “nasal spray” version of the flu vaccine is not recommended during pregnancy because unlike the flu shot, this vaccine contains weakened live flu virus which has not been recommended for safe use in pregnant women.
The Tdap shot contains toxoids from the tetanus and diphtheria bacteria, and inactivated toxin and other components of the bacteria that cause pertussis.
The small doses of these toxoids are what your body needs to develop its immune defenses to the diseases themselves.
Tetanus, often referred to as “lock-jaw,” is a bacterial disease which causes severe generalized muscle spasms and stiffness. It can lead to cramping and tightening of muscles in the head and neck that result in an inability to open your mouth, swallow, or even breath.
Tetanus kills about 1 out of 5 people who are infected, and there is no natural immunity to tetanus. Only people who have been vaccinated are protected.
Diphtheria is a bacterial disease which can cause a thick membrane to cover the back of the throat. This can cause breathing problems, paralysis, heart failure, and even death.
The shots given to prevent both tetanus and diphtheria have been used safely for decades, and the Tdap vaccine which provides protection from tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis is safe to get during pregnancy.
*Mothers who are protected against tetanus transmit that protection through their placenta to protect their newborn against neonatal tetanus, or tetanus among newborns. Neonatal tetanus has been a major cause of newborn death, particularly in the developing world, and is it being reduced by vaccinating pregnant women.
Sometimes there can be reasons for you to not get certain vaccines.
Before getting a flu shot, be sure to tell your doctor if:
Also, if you are moderately or severely ill when you try to get a flu shot, you should wait until you’re healthy before getting the flu shot. You may want to reschedule getting your shot.
Before getting a Tdap shot, be sure to tell your doctor if:
If you are moderately to severely ill on the day you are supposed to receive a Tdap shot, you should wait until you get better before getting a Tdap shot.
Studies have shown that getting vaccinated for flu during pregnancy can reduce the likelihood that your baby will be born prematurely or of low birth weight. By protecting yourself from getting sick, you increase the chances your baby stays healthy and is born on time.
Protective antibodies that you produce to the shots have been shown to pass from your blood to the baby through your placenta or umbilical cord. Antibodies also pass through breastmilk which is extremely important for protecting your newborn before they are able to get shots themselves. Babies cannot receive their first whooping cough vaccine until they are 2 months old, and they cannot receive a flu vaccine until they are at least 6 months old. Protecting yourself through vaccination is the best way to protect your baby during their most vulnerable few months.
Seeing a baby suffer from whooping cough is terrible. The babies struggle to breathe through bouts of terrible coughing. Doing whatever you can to prevent your newborn from getting sick with whooping cough is important.
Flu can be a very serious disease if you get it during pregnancy. When pregnant, you are more likely to go to the hospital with severe complications from the flu than if you catch the flu when you are not pregnant. The flu can make you very sick for many days, resulting in fever, difficulty breathing, and appetite loss. All of these things can take a toll on your strength, and you need all the strength and nutrients you can get to make sure your baby grows properly.
For pertussis, it is much more severe in infants than in adults. Since it is most threatening to newborns, getting yourself vaccinated reduces your risk of catching pertussis which in turn reduces the likelihood you will pass it along to your newborn.
The most common and mild side effects from the flu shot are very minor. These include:
If any of the side effects listed above occur, they will happen soon after you get the shot and last 1 – 2 days.
Severe problems are very rare (estimated at less than 1 in a million doses), but include life-threatening allergic reactions that occur within minutes to hours of getting the flu shot.
For a Tdap shot, mild side effects that are noticeable, but don’t interfere with activities include:
Moderate side effects that may interfere with activities include:
Severe problems that may require medical attention include:
Know that severe reactions are extremely rare. If they weren’t, doctors would not recommend women get these vaccines at all.
Severe allergic reactions to either vaccine would occur within a few minutes of either shot. Signs to look out for are difficulty breathing, weakness, hoarseness or wheezing, a fast heart beat, hives, dizziness, paleness, or swelling of the throat.
If you experience any of the above, call your doctor immediately or come in right away. Try to record the date and time of the unusual condition.
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