Pregnancy Vaccinations: When to Have It?
The primary purpose of pregnancy vaccination is to strengthen one’s immune system against serious infectious diseases, as well as to prevent communicable diseases from spreading. Particularly, women who intend to get pregnant should all the more be encouraged to get vaccinated against certain ailments to protect not only themselves but also the fetus they are going to conceive.
There has been no conclusive evidence yet regarding risks to a developing fetus from vaccination – either inactivated virus or live vaccines – of the mother during pregnancy. Rather, its benefits far exceed potential risks. Nevertheless, as precautionary measure, women should avoid getting pregnant for at least 28 days after she receives any of the vaccines.
Measles, mumps, and rubella live virus vaccines, which are usually grouped together as MMR, should only be given at least three months before getting pregnant, and not during pregnancy. This is a standard procedure to ascertain a woman’s immunity to rubella. If in case the initial rubella test indicates that the woman is vulnerable to it, she will then receive the vaccine post-partum.
Measles can greatly affect a pregnant woman, especially if she has not been vaccinated before because it exposes her to the risk of spontaneous abortion or of not carrying the pregnancy to term. In this case, she needs to see her doctor immediately. However, if she had been vaccinated or had experienced measles before, she need not worry at all. Meanwhile, although there is no evidence that mumps virus has been associated with defects in the unborn a pregnant woman who acquires mumps during her first 12 to 16 weeks of pregnancy can be prone to miscarriage. There is also a lingering concern that attenuated rubella vaccine virus might cause abnormalities in the fetus, but experts maintain that this is hypothetical risk only. There have been incidents where rubella vaccine, either monovalent or as MMR, was inadvertently administered to pregnant women, but without harmful effects to the fetus.
On the other hand, varicella vaccine, which is used to prevent chicken pox, should be administered at least one month prior to pregnancy. A pregnant woman who acquires chicken pox is likely to be in greater risk of having severe illness, and her child may be born with congenital varicella syndrome, a very rare disorder where the affected newborn shows distinctive abnormalities like low birth weight, defects of the skin, upper and lower extremities, brain, eyes, and other parts of the body.
Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis) vaccine. Tetanus, which is frequently called lock-jaw, is a serious condition of the central nervous system caused by the bacteria Clostridium tetani. Tetanus, now a rare condition, can be fatal to a newborn, but is preventable if the mother is vaccinated.
Diphtheria, a dangerous respiratory infection, is caused by the bacterium Corynebacterium diphtheria, which produces toxin that runs into the bloodstream. It is a communicable and fatal disease that usually attacks the throat, nose, and in serious cases, the heart and nerves.
Pertussis, or whooping cough, is a widespread and potentially life-threatening respiratory infection that has been the culprit of morbidity and mortality in infants less than 6 months old. It has an incubation period of 7 to 20 days.
Hepatitis B, also known as serum hepatitis, is a communicable disease of the liver caused by a DNA virus that can be acquired through a contaminated blood or blood derivatives, sexual contact with an infected individual, or through used and unclean needles and instruments. It has a long incubation period with symptoms that can develop into severe or chronic ailment and even poses a risk to the liver.
All pregnant women must submit to a Hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) test during their initial prenatal visit for immunity. If, however, they are vulnerable to it and if there is likelihood for them to be a risk factor, they should be vaccinated immediately. Hepatitis B in pregnant women may cause severe conditions to the mother, the fetus, and the newborn.
Meanwhile, human papilloma virus (HPV) is the most common type of sexually transmitted disease that can cause genital warts and cervical cancer. It is passed on either through genital contact, oral sex, and also between straight and same-sex partners. And, although it is a rare occurrence, a mother may also transmit the disease to her baby during childbirth. The disease can be avoided by an HPV vaccine, but the most effective way to prevent or reduce it from spreading is by safe sex practices and limiting sexual partners.
At least two drug companies have developed and tested HPV vaccine. However, it created controversies among conservative groups, who claim that such vaccine may promote promiscuity. While in another note, some sectors and even medical professionals claim that the HPV virus does not cause cervical cancer, at all. They accuse certain drug companies of disseminating this fallacy in order to promote its product. Remember also to discuss about pregnancy vaccination with your doctor.