Pregnant Women Should Get These Vaccinations to Keep Their Babies Healthy, Doctors Say

A few shots during pregnancy could keep babies healthy and protect them from a potentially deadly infection, according to a new guide for pregnant women and obstetricians.

For the first time, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has released a one-page immunization guide for pregnant women that spells out which vaccinations they should ask their doctors about. The guide’s authors put a lot of emphasis on the acellular pertussis vaccine, or Tdap, which protects babies from whooping cough, a potentially fatal infection for newborns.

“Our goal was to increase vaccination rates among pregnant women and make it easier for providers to routinely prescribe them,” Dr. Laura Riley, one of the guide's authors and chair of the ACOG immunization work group, told Newsweek.

0625-Medical vials a Medical vials and syringe. A new guide tells pregnant women what shots they need to keep their babies healthy. Getty Images

The document is a simple reference sheet meant to clear up any confusion that providers and patients might have about vaccinations. It lists nine vaccinations and when they can be administered throughout pregnancy. The flu shot is recommended because women’s immune systems are affected by pregnancy, and they're more likely to get seriously sick from influenza. The hepatitis A vaccine can also be given to pregnant women and should be given in the midst of an outbreak, Riley said. 

“Many times, providers don’t know if hepatitis A can be given during pregnancy because we don’t do it all of the time,” she said. 

The Tdap vaccination is suggested for nearly every pregnant woman, as it protects newborns against whooping cough, a contagious infection especially for infants that can make them gravely ill. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, half of babies who get sick with whooping cough end up in the hospital, and some die.

“You can’t vaccinate children until they are a year old. The only way to protect newborns, for which whooping cough is deadly, is to vaccinate the mother during pregnancy,” Dr. Heather Sankey, an obstetrician and gynecologist practicing at Massachusetts’s Baystate Medical Center, told Newsweek.

“Sometimes people don’t think about pregnancy as a time when you might vaccinate someone,” said Sankey, who was not one of the doctors responsible for drafting the document. 

This new guide will be a helpful reminder and could raise awareness about the right protocol for treating women, she said. “[ACOG] very much wants us to be taking care of women and thinking of the big picture.”

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