One of the most difficult things about living in the age of information is just dealing with a whole lot of it. Conflicting information, specifically, come to think of it. Being a pregnant women in 2018 who has access to the internet is all about scrolling through articles trying to piece together exactly what you should do to make sure both you and your baby stay healthy. Well luckily, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) is trying to make it simple for you. In fact, the ACOG's new immunization guidelines for pregnant woman are designed to give a pregnant mom-to-be peace of mind... and help her make the best decisions possible.
It seems the ACOG is trying to clear up some confusion, not just for pregnant women, but also for health practitioners who might be unclear about what sort of vaccines are safe and necessary. The new, one-sheet vaccination guide for pregnant women from the ACOG looks very much like the same vaccine schedule parents are given for their children. It's super easy to follow, with nine recommended vaccines in total, and gives pregnant women a benchmark for which vaccines they should discuss with their health care provider. As author Dr. Laura Riley explained to Newsweek of the ACOG's new guidelines:
Our goal was to increase vaccination rates among pregnant women and make it easier for providers to routinely prescribe them.
One of the vaccines the guide would most like pregnant women to pay attention to is the acellular pertussis vaccine, or Tdap vaccine, which helps to prevent pertussis (whooping cough). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), whooping cough is highly dangerous for newborn babies; almost half of the children who were found to have whooping cough had to be hospitalized if they were younger than 1 year of age, and some babies have even died from the exposure. Because babies can't start getting the vaccination until they're 2 months old, as recommended by the CDC, the best course of action to protect newborns is for their mothers to get the vaccine while they're still in utero. According to the CDC:
When you get the whooping cough vaccine during your pregnancy, your body will create protective antibodies and pass some of them to your baby before birth. These antibodies will provide your baby some short-term, early protection against whooping cough.
Other vaccines the ACOG wants moms to consider? The flu shot, for one, just because pregnant women are more susceptible to getting sick because their immune systems are working overtime. And the Hepatitis A vaccine, which Dr. Riley told Newsweek has caused some confusion for health care providers. "Many times, providers don’t know if hepatitis A can be given during pregnancy because we don’t do it all of the time," he told the news outlet.
This vaccine is safe for pregnant women, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, and the ACOG guide recommends that it be administered in case of an outbreak.
The vaccination guide for pregnant women breaks the vaccines down into four subsections as follows:
- Vaccines to be administered in every pregnancy (the flu shot and Tdap to ensure "the antibodies are transferred to the fetus," according to the ACOG)
- Those given during pregnancy in certain populations
- Vaccines to be avoided during pregnancy, like the MMR (for measles, mumps, and rubella), and varicella vaccine
- Those that can be continued postpartum or when a new mom is breastfeeding
At the end of the day, moms have the right to make their own choices about their pregnancies, of course. But I have to say, it's nice to have these vaccines sorted out in a neat, one-page guide like this. It's one less thing to try to research on your own... which is the best gift of all.
Editor's Note: A previous version of this article misstated the CDC's recommended Tdap vaccination schedule for infants. It has been updated.