Vaccines during pregnancy: what expectant moms need to know

Some vaccines can be an important part of protecting the health of both mom and baby.
Some vaccines can be an important part of protecting the health of both mom and baby.

Dr. Jacqueline Kates

August is National Immunization Awareness Month

When it comes to health and wellness in pregnancy, any choice an expectant mom makes is for two (or more!)—including whether to receive vaccines. During National Immunization Awareness Month, we’re taking the opportunity to educate our patients and all pregnant women on this critical area of their care.

As with any medical treatment, recommendations around vaccinations center on risk vs. benefit. In general, a vaccine that contains inactive viruses is safe in pregnancy, and its protective benefits almost always outweigh its risk.

The flu shot and the Tdap vaccine—which prevents against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough)—are primary examples of vaccines that contain no live viruses.  Not only do these vaccines protect both mother and fetus from potentially serious infections, but the baby will then retain some of that immunity after birth. For these reasons, we routinely recommend that women receive the flu shot and the Tdap vaccine during pregnancy.

That having been said, it’s important to note that only the flu shot—not the nasal mist—is recommended in pregnancy, as the nasal mist is made from a live virus. Other common vaccines that contain live viruses include the chickenpox (varicella), measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) and shingles (varicella zoster) vaccines. Since it’s possible a live virus vaccine, while generally safe for children and infants, could pose a risk to the baby, pregnant women should avoid these vaccines.

Health care providers may recommend other vaccines during pregnancy in certain cases, such as upcoming travel outside of the U.S. If a mom is at higher risk for infection due to certain health factors, we may determine that hepatitis A and hepatitis B vaccines would be beneficial.

It’s the job of your obstetric provider to explain the risks and benefits of receiving any vaccine, and to make recommendations based on your particular situation. Call us with any questions or to make an appointment. We can help you make the best choices for your baby’s health and yours.

Preparing for pregnancy: 5 health and family considerations

Preparation can help set the stage for a healthy pregnancy and delivery.

Dr. Jacqueline S. Kates

Thinking about having a baby? A little preparation goes a long way in setting the stage for a healthy pregnancy. Before you start trying to conceive, it’s a good idea to talk to your women’s health provider about your health and risk factors.

Consider these five key health questions:

  1. Are you in good general health? Levels of fitness, nutrition and stress can affect fertility and a healthy pregnancy. It’s worth taking time to address these issues in advance, making lifestyle changes such as exercising, following a healthy diet rich in folic acid and other important nutrients, and catching up on missed immunizations.
  2. Do you have any pre-existing conditions that may lead to a complicated pregnancy? Conditions like asthma, depression/anxiety, diabetes, high blood pressure and others can affect pregnancy. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get pregnant, but we can help you have a plan in place before conception for how best to manage these conditions during pregnancy.
  3. What unhealthy habits need to be kicked? Smoking and tobacco use, alcohol consumption and drug use should be stopped before trying to get pregnant. In addition to affecting the fertility of both men and women, these things have a serious impact on a developing pregnancy. It may be challenging to quit once you’re pregnant, so it’s best to do it in advance. Talk to us for support and strategies.
  4. What prescription and over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and herbal supplements are you taking? Again, some medications can affect fertility, so we may need to make changes before you start trying to conceive. Also, some medications and supplements can be harmful during pregnancy, so we’ll work with you to either wean you off medications or transition you to something else.
  5. Are there any red flags in your family medical history? Certain genetic conditions run in families. We can test for some conditions in advance so you’ll know your risk level before getting pregnant, or develop a plan for testing during pregnancy.

In addition to health issues, consider big picture questions as well. Babies are amazing, and they can also be all-consuming, especially in the early years. Ask yourself the hard questions. Are you ready to make lifestyle changes necessary to be a parent? Are you financially able to care for a child? Do you have the support you need from a partner or others? What impact do you expect a child to have on your home life, career and family?

When you are ready to start trying to conceive, call us for an appointment. We’ll work with you to a personalized care plan.

Fertility Facts & Fiction

Dr. Jacqueline Kates
Dr. Jacqueline Kates

What really helps to boost fertility

Dr. Jacqueline Kates, obstetrician/gynecologist

We’ve all heard some of the many “tricks” to help women get pregnant. But what really works?

Both female and male fertility is affected by a wide range of factors, including medical history, current health, age, family history, medications and environmental factors. Some women become pregnant as soon as they start trying, while others take longer or experience difficulties.

Here are a few things that may help:

  • Check your weight. Being overweight or underweight can affect the fertility of both men and women. Talk to your health care provider about your ideal weight, and steps you can take to try to achieve it.
  • Stop smoking. While everyone knows that smoking – including tobacco and marijuana – during pregnancy may be harmful to both mom and baby, many don’t realize it can also affect fertility in both women and men.
  • Learn more. You and your partner should talk candidly with your health providers about your desire to conceive, and any concerns you have. Be honest about your health and your use of alcohol, tobacco, drugs and any medications that might play a role in your fertility or ability to have a healthy pregnancy. Some medications, vaginal lubricants, or exposure to chemicals can decrease fertility in both women and men.

 

Before trying to conceive, talk to your health care provider to address any concerns and discuss how to optimize your health.

Our doctors and nurse-midwives are welcoming new patients in our Springfield and Westfield locations. Book online or call us at (413) 562-8306 for our Westfield office, or (413) 736-9978 for Springfield.