As more of my friends approach motherhood, their health becomes a primary focus. The body that once was used as a vessel to devour loaded nachos and kick back margaritas on the rocks is now the nurturing zen womb for baby X. A pregnant mother’s goal is to deliver a healthy baby and that starts inside the womb. Saying goodbye to their alcohol is just the first of many decisions expecting moms are required to make to keep their babies safe. Avoiding alcohol while pregnant is a well known fact, but there are other decisions that expecting mothers are required to make regarding their bodies that are not so well known. Can a pregnant woman take the flu shot during flu season? Are vaccines harmful to unborn children? Which vaccines can she take?
Every thing that enters the woman’s body is analyzed and deliberated beforehand once a woman becomes pregnant and vaccines are no exception. According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention some vaccines like the Tdap for whooping cough is perfectly safe to take while pregnant and is even recommended to take between the 27th and 36th week of pregnancy. Are all vaccines safe then?
No, not all vaccines are safe. A pregnant woman should consult their primary care physician or ob gyn specialist before taking any vaccines. That being said, Doctor Roger W. Harms sums up the rule of thumb as far as which vaccines are safe to take and which ones to avoid. He states on the Mayo Clinic question/answer forum, vaccines that contain inactivated viruses can be given during pregnancy but the live virus vaccines should be avoided.
The influenza (flu) shot and Tdap are recommended to take during pregnancy because both are inactivated virus vaccines. An inactivated virus is virus particles that are grown in culture and then killed so that they cannot replicate once administered into the body as a vaccine. While virus particles themselves are killed, the virus proteins are intact to enable the immune system to recognize and respond effectively to future invasions of the virus. The health experts view these vaccinations as no threat to the expecting mother and her unborn child because the virus is killed.
Vaccinations to avoid are rubella, measles and human papillomavirus. These vaccinations all contain live viruses. Vaccinations that contain live viruses are administered into the body in small doses. By administering a small dose of the virus, the body’s immune system can easily fight off the invading virus and build a tolerance against a future attack of the same virus. Expecting mothers who take these types of vaccinations can inadvertently harm the baby inside the womb. Developing babies do not have the immune systems that adults do and are in greater danger if exposed to a live virus. Pregnant women should not take these vaccinations.
Expecting mothers looking to keep their unborn children safe and healthy should read up on the latest medical advice and of course visit regularly with their doctors. Taking vaccines during pregnancy can be risky depending on the vaccine. Before taking any prescription, medicine or vaccine, the expecting mother should consult her doctor to make sure it is safe to take.