December 30, 2016
When planning a pregnancy, one of the many things to consider is your immunization status. Certain infectious diseases can be harmful to your own health and vaccinations are designed to protect you. Making sure you're up to date on your vaccines is even more important now that you're planning to bring a baby into the picture. Once you become pregnant you'll be sharing everything with baby - including your immunity - so getting vaccinated ahead of time can protect you both from such diseases. Here's a quick breakdown on what to expect when it comes to vaccinations both before and during your pregnancy.
Before getting pregnant
Certain vaccinations can be given when you are pregnant, but ones that contain a live virus cannot due to the potential risk to a growing fetus. One such live vaccine is the MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella). If you have not already had the MMR vaccination, aim to get it in the near future. It's best to get this vaccine at least 4-6 weeks before becoming pregnant to ensure safe prenatal immunity.
Your rubella status is routinely checked during your pregnancy, as contracting this particular disease can increase your risk of miscarriage or stillbirth, and potentially cause detrimental defects in the development of your baby's brain, eyes and heart. Typically, this will be examined at your first appointment with your OB/GYN or midwife.
If you are currently trying to conceive and aren’t sure which vaccines you’ve had or which ones you are up to date ib, make an appointment to visit your GP for a check up so they can assess your immunization status.
Two primary vaccinations offered routinely in the UK during pregnancy are Pertussis, more commonly known as Whooping Cough, and Influenza, or the Flu.
The vaccine for Whooping Cough also protects against Tetanus, Diphtheria and Polio. It is normally given when you are between 20-32 weeks pregnant. As it is an inactivated vaccine, it is not known to cause any harm to you or your baby.
Whooping cough in newborns can be a very serious condition. It can lead to pneumonia, brain damage, and in some cases it can potentially be life-threatening. Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t always cause a cough and may not be detected until the baby stops breathing. Getting this vaccination during your pregnancy means you will pass these important antibodies on to your baby and give them protection for their first few weeks of life.
Changes in your body during pregnancy also make you more susceptible to catching the flu. The flu virus can be passed on to your baby in utero and this can also increase your chances of miscarriage or premature delivery. The flu vaccine is typically given at the start of the season in late September, but can be done at any time of year and can be given at the same time as the whooping cough vaccine.
Other vaccines may be advised, depending on your occupation, lifestyle and any preexisting medical conditions you may have. Always consult with your GP first and foremost to make sure you and your baby are fully protected for your unique needs. If you are planning a trip abroad, you should also speak to your healthcare professional as you may require travel vaccinations 6 weeks ahead of time.
Post contributed by Dr Farah Ahmad, a GP with the UK’s first on-demand app for GP home visits, GPDQ.