Do adults really need vaccines?

Doctor with pregnant woman during check-upJennifer and Will hope to start a family later this year. Do either of them need vaccines before trying to conceive?

Sophia is pregnant with her second child. She remembers getting a couple of vaccines when she was pregnant with her first child. Does she need to get them again?

Lorraine and Bob just became grandparents and hope to do a lot of babysitting. Do they need any vaccines before being with their granddaughter?

The answers to all of the above? YES!

Children are not the only ones who need vaccines. Adults need them, too. As you can see from the above scenarios, vaccines are necessary before, during and after pregnancy.

Before pregnancy

Make sure your vaccinations are current so that they protect you and your baby during pregnancy. Then, ask your provider how long you need to wait before you try to get pregnant.

Are you up to date on your MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine?  This one is important because rubella is a contagious disease that can be very dangerous if you get it while you are pregnant.  In fact, it can cause a miscarriage or serious birth defects. The best protection against rubella is the MMR vaccine, but you need it before you get pregnant.  Then, you should avoid trying to get pregnant for at least four weeks after getting the vaccine.

During pregnancy

When you get vaccines, you aren’t just protecting yourself—you are giving your baby some early protection too. CDC recommends you get a whooping cough and flu vaccine during each pregnancy to help protect yourself and your baby.

  • Whooping cough (or Tdap) vaccine – Get this at 27 – 36 weeks of pregnancy. You need to get the Tdap vaccine in each and every pregnancy. This ensures that you pass your protection on to your baby, which will help keep him safe until he is able to get his own pertussis vaccination at 2 months of age.
  • Flu – A flu shot during pregnancy protects you from serious complications and protects your baby for up to 6 months after birth. You need a flu shot every year, as the flu strain changes year to year.

After pregnancy

Although getting vaccines during pregnancy is very important, you also need to think about those individuals who will be near your baby.

At the very least, fathers, grandparents, caregivers and anyone who is going to be in contact with your baby should be immunized against pertussis (whooping cough) and flu. They should get the Tdap and flu vaccines at least 2 weeks before meeting your baby. This strategy of surrounding babies with people who are protected against a disease such as whooping cough is called “cocooning.”

However, cocooning might not be enough to prevent your baby from getting sick. This is because cocooning does not provide any direct protection (antibodies) to your baby, and it can be difficult to make sure everyone who is around your baby has gotten their whooping cough vaccine. Therefore, it is even more important that you get your vaccines while you are pregnant.

A baby is not able to start getting most of his vaccines until he is at least two months old. For example, aside from the Hepatitis B vaccine that is given to your baby in the hospital, the first of 5 doses of the DTap (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis) vaccine is given at 2 months of age. The flu vaccine is not given until 6 months, and the MMR, varicella (chickenpox), and hepatitis A vaccines are not given until 12 months.

If you haven’t received all your vaccinations before or during pregnancy, talk to your provider after giving birth to see about getting caught up to protect yourself and your baby.

What are “boosters?”

Even if you got all of your vaccinations during your life, some vaccines need “boosters” because they wear off over time. Talk with your health care provider to see whether you need them. With a little preparation and forethought, you and your baby will be protected against diseases that could be dangerous or even deadly.

Test your knowledge

Take the CDC’s Vaccines and Pregnancy Quiz for a fun way to learn what vaccines you need before and during pregnancy. It is quick and easy, and you’ll learn something whether you get the answers right or wrong.  No judgment! And check out their new Pregnancy and Vaccination page.

Have questions? Text or email them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

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