Pregnancy is a special time for mom and baby. It’s also a time when the immune system is weaker than usual making moms susceptible to certain infections that might be highly detrimental to a developing baby. Since mother and baby share everything during this time, vaccination is the best way to extend the protection to both.
Planning a pregnancy? Here’s what you should know.
While all live vaccinations should be avoided during pregnancy, vaccinations with inactivated virus, bacterial or toxoid have more benefits than theoretical risks. Maternal immunisations provide several health benefits like helping the mother fight off vaccine-preventable illnesses that could not only endanger the ongoing pregnancy but can adversely affect future pregnancies as well. One essential thing to remember if you plan to travel during pregnancy is that some diseases possibly rare in your home town can be common around other parts of the world. Talk to your doctor about your travel plans before you leave.
What vaccinations are recommended and safe during pregnancy?
Some of the recommended vaccines that can be given even during pregnancy include:
Tetanus: Tetanus is a life-threatening bacterial disease caused by Clostridium tetani and usually enters the body through a small nick, scratch or open wound. If left untreated it can severely affect a person's nervous system and in some cases, be fatal. Neonatal tetanus in newborns can take place from unhealed umbilical stump but is easily prevented by a simple vaccination. To maximise efficacy, the first dose is given as soon as pregnancy is detected and the second after four weeks.
Hepatitis B: The Hepatitis B infection causes a severe inflammation of the liver and can be fatal to the mother in case of pregnancy or increase the chance of preterm birth. The biggest concern, however, is the transmission of infection from mother to child which will leave 70% to 90% of babies chronically infected with hepatitis B well into adult life. This can further develop into liver cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma later on.
The risks are high though the vaccine is a safe and effective method to prevent the disease. In the case of a pregnant woman who is HBsAg-positive, the infant should receive the Hepatitis B Immunoglobulin and start the hepatitis B vaccine schedule no later than 12 hours after birth. The recommended HepB vaccine schedule should then be followed to cut risks further.
Influenza: Influenza is far more dangerous for pregnant women than its innocuous sounding name. Due to changes in the immune system while expectant, mothers and their unborn babies are at severe risk of infection, hospitalisations for premature labour and delivery and even fatality due to influenza. Mothers in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy are at exceptionally high risk - the risk that can be mitigated simply by administering a routine inactivated influenza vaccine at any time.
Hepatitis A: Hepatitis A virus is a water-borne pathogen transmitted by ingestion of contaminated food or water. While the mortality rate is relatively insignificant in pregnant women, it can lead to preterm labour and other gestational complications such as placental abruption, premature uterine contractions etc. While the safety of hepatitis A vaccination during pregnancy has not been determined, the vaccine itself is produced from an inactivated virus, thus making the benefits greater than the low risk to the developing foetus.
If a pregnant woman is at risk of infection, administering the immunoglobulin is strongly recommended, safe and more than 85 % effective in preventing acute infection during pregnancy. Globally, an estimated 1.4 million cases occur every year making it a fairly common disease to watch for especially if you’re planning to travel during pregnancy.
In conclusion, it is essential to note that vaccination before pregnancy is the safest route, but even during pregnancy, getting immunised is the most cost-effective way to cut federal complications. While lack of awareness and education on the necessity and safety of vaccine plays a massive role in India, doing a little self-research, talking to your doctors and sharing verified information is a great way to bring about change.
To know more about the Swasth Immunised India campaign, click here.