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ACOG Releases Immunization Guide for Pregnant Women

Photograph by Twenty20

There are many things expectant mothers aren't supposed to do, like paint a nursery, wear stilettos, nibble on raw meat or kick back with a cold one while soaking in a hot tub. In fact, the list is so long that it's hard for soon-to-be mothers to know the difference between fact and fiction, especially when it comes to immunization. But thanks to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the rules for vaccination during pregnancy are now available in an easy-to-read, one-page handout.

“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.

The new guide (similar to a vaccine calendar for kids) pinpoints which vaccines pregnant women should get and when they should receive them. The document includes a total of nine vaccines, and Tdap—a vaccine that protects babies against pertussis (whooping cough), a highly contagious disease that parents, older siblings and caregivers can pass onto babies without even knowing they’re infected—is at the top of their list.

Nearly half of babies younger than 1 year old who get whooping cough end up in the hospital; some even die, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But expectant mothers who get the Tdap vaccine during pregnancy can protect their newborns against this life-threatening disease.

Tdap—a vaccine that protects babies against pertussis (whooping cough)—is at the top of their list.

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

Since women's immune systems are affected by pregnancy, the flu shot is another vaccine recommended by ACOG, along with hepatitis A (in the event of an outbreak), hepatitis B (for women who have behavioral risk factors) and pneumococcal pneumonia (if the mother is diabetic or has sickle-cell disease).

In addition to laying out which shots pregnant women need to get (and when), the guide also advises women on which ones to avoid. For example, live vaccines—varicella (chickenpox), and measles, mumps and rubella—contain weakened forms of the virus in the shot and could infect the baby or cause the mother to miscarry.

Though the list of vaccines to get (or not) is short, the authors hope this new guide will help clear up any confusion that providers and moms-to-be have about immunizations during pregnancy.

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