The other day I received information from the American College of Obstetrician/Gynecologists (ACOG) encouraging more obgyn physicians to incorporate vaccines into their practice and I hit the pause button. I had to ask myself if I really wanted to write about vaccines and pregnancy because of the controversy as to whether vaccines contribute to autism. There are 3 schools of thought regarding this matter which includes (1) the combination measles-mumps-rubella vaccine causes autism by damaging the intestinal lining, which allows the entrance of proteins; (2) thimerosal, an mercury-containing preservative in some vaccines, is toxic to the central nervous system; and (3) giving several vaccines at the same time overwhelms or weakens the immune system. The FDA and scientific studies of all allegedly laid these rumors to rest so I won’t attempt to resurrect them. Instead, I will discuss what vaccines are recommended by ACOG for pregnant women and then leave the decision up to you, the reader.
Vaccines are preparations (sometimes called “needles” or “shots”) that help stimulate your body to make substances called antibodies that will protect you from bacteria and viruses that could potentially cause significant harm including death. At present, Tdap and influenza vaccines are recommended to be given during pregnancy. However, the MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella) is not recommended during pregnancy because it is “live-attentuated” meaning, it has a live version of the virus in the vaccine.
Tdap stands for tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. Tetanus is also known as “lockjaw” and is caused by a bacteria that paralyzes muscles. Diptheria is a respiratory disease that causes sore throats, breathing problems and death. It is particularly deadly to children under age 5 and caused epidemics that killed several hundred thousand people (including a few of my relatives) in the U.S., especially during the 1920’s. Pertussis is a highly infectious bacterial disease also known as whooping cough that affects adults but can be fatal to infants who are less than 4 months. Influenza, also known as the “flu” is also recommended for pregnant women, especially after the H1N1 breakout that killed several pregnant women in the U.S. If these vaccines cannot or are declined during pregnancy, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) strongly encourages mothers to take them immediately after delivery, preferably before the mother leaves the hospital.
For further information, please visit http://www.immunize.org/handouts/easy-to-read.asp