Planning to conceive? All you need to know about vaccines for a safe pregnancy

Every year on April 11 we celebrate National Safe Motherhood Day. The aim of this day is to raise awareness of good healthcare and the safety of all mothers or expecting mothers. This initiative was started by the government of India and is aimed at reducing maternal and neonatal death rates. Pregnancy is a time when women undergo a lot of physical and emotional changes and hormones play a huge role in how you feel mentally and physically. Everything including your immune system behaves differently during pregnancy. As a result, you are more vulnerable to diseases and infections that could be dangerous for both you and your developing child.

And that is why it is important to get timely vaccines for expecting mothers and for women who plan to conceive in the near future. It is also crucial to understand which vaccines are safe, as your well-being and your unborn child’s health are both significantly protected by the vaccinations you receive before and during pregnancy.

Pregnant women produce a lot of antibodies. During the final month of pregnancy, they transmit these antibodies to the developing baby. Vaccines with dead viruses are safe for expecting mothers, whereas vaccines with the live virus aren’t recommended for expecting mothers. Hence, doctors recommend certain vaccines that are safe before and during pregnancy to help keep mothers and their babies healthy.

Vaccines to be taken before pregnancy

1. MMR Vaccine (Measles, mumps, rubella)
Measles, an infectious disease caused by a virus, usually starts with a fever, cough, and runny nose and is followed two or three days later by a spotty red rash. Mumps is also an infectious viral infection that causes swelling of the salivary glands. If you are infected with any of these while pregnant, your chances of miscarriage may increase. Rubella virus, often known as German measles, causes flu-like symptoms that are frequently followed by a rash. It can be dangerous during pregnancy. There has been an increase in the number of children born to moms who contracted it during the first trimester and the babies are born with birth abnormalities such as hearing loss and learning difficulties.

2. Hepatitis B
Hepatitis B is a viral infection that can harm the liver for a long time. The mother can transmit Hepatitis B to the infant during birth. Without prompt treatment, the infant is at risk of developing liver infections. Ask your doctor if you need to be vaccinated against hepatitis B if you are planning a pregnancy.

3. Varicella zoster virus/ Chickenpox
Chickenpox during pregnancy can result in serious sickness for both the mother and the unborn child. A simple blood test can tell if you are immune to the chickenpox virus. If you are not immune, you will require two doses of the vaccination to be fully protected. You should wait for at least 4 weeks to get pregnant after taking the vaccine.

4. Pneumococcal disease
Smokers, diabetics, and people with chronic heart, lung, or kidney problems should be protected against pneumococcal disease. Check with your doctor if you should be vaccinated against pneumococcal illness if you are planning a pregnancy.

5. Vaccination for travel
Certain vaccinations required for travel to other countries may not be recommended during pregnancy. It is advisable to consult your doctor if you can take these vaccinations before you plan to conceive.

Vaccines to be taken by expecting mothers

1. Tdap – Tetanus toxoid, reduced diphtheria toxoid and acellular pertussis vaccine
Regardless of when you got your previous Tdap or Td immunization, one dose of Tdap vaccine is suggested during each pregnancy. Getting the Tdap vaccine while pregnant protects your baby from whooping cough. In babies under the age of six months, whooping cough can cause serious sickness and even death. Ideally, the vaccine should be administered between weeks 27 and 36 of pregnancy.

2. Influenza
The flu (influenza) virus can cause significant sickness. The influenza vaccine is safe and will minimize your risk of serious flu complications. Babies are also more likely to have issues if they get the flu. Getting the flu vaccine while pregnant will protect your newborn for the first 6 months following birth. It is best to avoid the influenza nasal spray vaccine, which usually contains a live virus.

3. Covid-19 Vaccine
If you haven’t taken the Covid-19 vaccine already, it is advisable to take the vaccine. Contracting Covid-19 during pregnancy increases the chances of hospitalization and related complications. According to studies, most Covid-19 vaccines pose no major dangers to pregnant women or their newborns. If you become pregnant after having the first dose of a Covid-19 vaccination that requires two doses, you should obtain your second shot. It is also recommended that pregnant women have a Covid-19 booster shot when the time comes.