Vaccinations and Pregnancy

In recent years, there has been a lot of buzz about vaccines. Some of it comes from legitimate concerns. Some of it can be traced back to some fairly bizarre conspiracy theories. As with any other medical treatment, pregnant women should ask a lot of questions and proceed cautiously with vaccines.

Generally speaking, vaccines work by injecting a dead version of the virus which causes the disease you are being inoculated from. A few vaccines use a live, but depleted virus. Vaccine which use live viruses are not generally recommended while you are pregnant.

Doctors don’t generally recommend other vaccines while you’re pregnant, either. One exception is the flu vaccine, which may be recommended for some women if they are pregnant during influenza season. If you do get this vaccine, your doctor will use the injected (shot) version rather than the nasal spray. The injection uses an inactivated virus, whereas the nasal spray uses live viruses.

In some cases, boosters will be suggested. This is generally only when it’s been more than ten years since you had your last immunizations. Boosters which are often recommended include:

  • Diphtheria
  • Tetanus
  • Whooping cough.

All of these vaccines are safe for you and the baby.

Special Vaccines

In the case of an outbreak of an unusual virus, your doctor might suggest appropriate vaccines. In recent years, the outbreak of the H1N1 (swine flu) virus led to many doctors suggesting their pregnant patients receive vaccines. In these cases, the risk of the disease outweighed any risk from the vaccine.

Thankfully, in recent studies, the H1N1 vaccines don’t appear to cause significant adverse effects in the mothers who had them or their babies. Babies who received the vaccine after they were born showed a small increase in the likelihood of contracting Guillain-Barre syndrome, but there seemed to be no negative effects on unborn babies.

Bottom Line

The bottom line regarding vaccines while you are pregnant is that you should follow your doctor’s advice. If your doctor is advising you to have a vaccine, it’s because any risks to you or your baby from receiving the vaccine are outweighed by the risks of not having the vaccine.

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