The Importance of Immunization for Expectant Mothers, Parents, & Caregivers

October is an important day for expectant parents and their babies. Two important designations, the Campaign for Healthier Babies Month and Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month, make this the time to educate yourself on how you can help ensure that your baby leads a happy, healthy life.

Though many infant deaths are altogether impossible to prevent, parents and caregivers can do their part when it comes to getting themselves, immediate family members, and any caregivers immunized.

We’re exploring why immunization, including the flu shot, is so important for parents and caregivers.

Why Should Parents & Caregivers be Immunized?

Again and again, you’ll hear it: vaccinations are the best protection against diseases that could prove debilitating or even fatal for your children, including measles, mumps, rubella, pertussis (whooping cough), and the flu. And since infants can’t receive the first round of vaccines before 2 months of age, parents and caregivers need to be up-to-date on their vaccinations to prevent spreading infection to the children in their care.Test Smartly Labs | Parents & Caregivers: Get Immunizations Like a Flu Shot

Expectant mothers should know that the immunity they gain by getting vaccinated during pregnancy passes to their unborn children. Fathers and other caregivers, such as grandparents, should get vaccinated, too, in anticipation of caring for the child in the months that they can’t be vaccinated. By keeping current, adults can form a protective cocoon of vaccination.

But Aren’t These Diseases Practically Eliminated in the US?

Thanks to the disproven notion that vaccines are linked to autism, in recent years some parents have elected not to vaccinate their children against many diseases. This means that certain diseases that are included in childrens’ regular vaccination schedules, including polio, measles, and whopping cough, are given the chance to spread again.

Though diseases like polio haven’t appeared in the US since 1979 (thanks to the polio vaccine), the World Health Organization has declared polio an international health emergency, and it’s currently circulating in 10 countries. In 2011, over 350,000 cases of measles were reported globally. This summer, the number of US measles cases increased to its highest point in 20 years — 280 cases reported — and 90% of these were in the unvaccinated population. In 2012, the number of whooping cough cases rose to its highest rate since 1955, with 20 pertussis-related deaths, most among infants under 3 months old.

But Not Everyone Needs to be Vaccinated, Right?

Think you can skip your vaccinations and rely on others to keep the herd immunity? In Japan in 1974, 80% of kids were vaccinated against whooping cough, and that year the country only saw 393 total cases of the disease, with no deaths. When immunization rates declined to 10% of children by 1979, 13,000 cases of whooping cough were reported, with 41 deaths. Once regular vaccination began again, whooping cough rates dropped.

This shows that if vaccination rates fall too low — such as when people rely on others to get vaccinated and maintain herd immunity — there can be dangerous results. Clearly, if you’re able to be vaccinated, you should be.

What Immunizations Should Parents & Caregivers Receive?

So what vaccinations do you need to receive to best protect your child or the children in your care? Here are the details!

Flu Shot

Since the dominant flu strains change each year, parents and caregivers should get a flu shot annually. Not only will this protect you from influenza, but it will also help protect the children around you from the flu, which can be fatal for infants and small kids.

It’s especially key to get the flu shot if you are pregnant, as your immune system is compromised and more vulnerable to influenza. A flu shot can protect against miscarriage or birth complications, plus the antibodies you develop will pass on to your child, protecting them for 6 months following their birth (at which point they can get their flu shot!)

Tdap Vaccine

The Tdap vaccine protects against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertusis, three bacterial infections that can cause nervous-system problems (tetanus) or severe respiratory issues (diphtheria and pertussis). All of these infections can prove fatal to children.

Adults who haven’t had their booster in the past 10 years or were never immunized as a child need to get one ASAP. If you’ve given birth in the last year or have close contact with an infant, the CDC recommends you get a Tdap shot within 2 years of your previous dose. Pregnant women should get the shot any time from 27 to 36 weeks pregnant, as the antibodies will form and pass to the unborn child, protecting them in the months before they can get vaccinated.

MMR Vaccine

Short for measles, mumps, rubella, this shot protects against very contagious viral diseases. As mentioned above, US measles cases are rising, underlining the need for MMR vaccination. Measles can cause pneumonia, seizures, and brain inflammation and is particularly dangerous to pregnant women and small children. In early pregnancy, rubella can cause birth defects; in the first trimester, mumps increases the chance of miscarriage.

If you’re trying to get pregnant, get a titers test to determine your immunity to MMR, then get vaccinated if needed and wait 4 weeks before trying to conceive. If you’re already pregnant, you can’t get your MMR shot, but should do so immediately after delivery, as this will help safeguard your child before they can get the shot, too. Fathers and other caregivers should also get their titers test to determine immunity, then get the MMR shot as needed.

Protect Your Family With Test Smartly Labs

Located nationwide, wellness-certified Test Smartly Labs locations provide the services you need to protect your family members or any children under your care. In addition to providing the seasonal flu shot, we also offer the titers test to gauge your immunity to measles, mumps, rubella, chicken pox, mononucleosis, and hepatitis B. With this information, parents and caregivers can determine what additional vaccinations or boosters are needed to keep the children around them safe and healthy.

To get started, find your nearest Test Smartly Labs today!


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