The immune system becomes weak during pregnancy, as it supports the growing foetus; this increases the risk of the mother catching an infection along with the baby. If a mother has a strong immunity, it helps create the baby’s first line of resistance to fight against uncertain maladies.
Not only does vaccination protect the woman and her child during pregnancy, but also provides resistance against diseases once the baby is born.
It is important for a woman to be informed on what vaccinations should be taken and when. Listed below are the vaccinations that women should take before, during and post-pregnancy:
Vaccine-preventable diseases are infectious in nature, for which an effective and preventive vaccine exists. Certain preventable infections can be harmful during pregnancy, and a woman should undergo a blood test before they plan to get pregnant, to find out if they are immune to such diseases.
One should postpone their pregnancy for a month if they are not immune and get vaccinated on priority.
Measles is a very contagious disease caused due to the Rubella virus. It starts with a fever, cough and runny nose, and is followed by a spotted red rash a few days later.
It may also increase the chance of premature labour.
Mumps is another contagious viral disease that causes the salivary glands to swell. If one is infected with either one in pregnancy, the risk of a miscarriage may arise.
Also, if a woman has the Hepatitis infection during pregnancy, it can pass on to the baby during birth; Hepatitis-B can further lead to serious health problems for the child.
One should get tested for measles, mumps and hepatitis-B, and take the MMR vaccination a month prior to becoming pregnant. FLUVAC should also be taken before and during pregnancy.
Flu season starts in November and lasts till February. Flu shots are recommended for women who would be pregnant during flu season. The best time to get the flu shots is in between October and November before the season starts.
Tetanus is a disease of the central nervous system that causes painful muscle cramps. The bacteria that cause tetanus can be found in soil and in animal waste; it can enter the bloodstream through a cut in the skin. Consult your doctor in case you get a deep or dirty wound. If contracted during pregnancy, tetanus can cause foetal death.
Diphtheria is a respiratory infection that can cause breathing problems, paralysis, and coma. Pertussis is a contagious bacterial disease which can be fatal in infants and is characterised by a deep, hacking cough and a high-pitched ‘whoop’ sound. Tetanus/ Diphtheria/ Pertussis shots (Tdap) are recommended during pregnancy to protect the baby from whooping cough. The preferable time frame is between 27-36 weeks of gestation.
A mother, who was unable to get the vaccination during or before becoming pregnant, can now consider getting it.
A pregnant woman can also get herself vaccinated for Hepatitis B, A and Pneumococcal Disease. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle when you are pregnant is referred to as prenatal care, and this is essential for a healthy pregnancy. Regular visits to the doctor and making prudent choices are a part of the same.
Time to time appointments with your doctor after conceiving are a must, which will look at your medical history and maintain your symptoms, which will help you track your health during pregnancy.
The author is a consultant gynaecologist, obstetrician and laparoscopic surgeon at Hiranandani Hospital, Vashi