The early weeks of pregnancy are fragile—and confusing. Here, the answers to your questions.
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Few of us are inclined to buck the wisdom of conventional medicine when it comes to vaccinating our kids against polio, diphtheria, measles, mumps and other illnesses. These diseases can be debilitating, even deadly; the shots prevent them. End of issue. But the decision can be more difficult when it comes to Varivax, the chickenpox vaccine.
Pregnant women are at higher risk of suffering from pneumonia and other complications of the flu, so you are specifically encouraged to get the influenza vaccine (so are the elderly, health-care workers and people with compromised immune systems). Getting immunized also may help protect your baby: The antibodies generated by the vaccine cross the placenta, so it's likely that the baby will have some degree of protection following birth. Ask your doctor about thimerosal-free vaccines.
No. Chickenpox can be dangerous for children with immune-system problems. In fact, before the vaccine was given to all babies, it was used for children with asthma and other immune-system complications, and for children who were currently receiving steroids or who might in the future (which is a definite possibility for your son). The benefits of this vaccine for your child, specifically the prevention of a bad case of chickenpox, far outweigh any drawbacks.
Contracting chickenpox during pregnancy can have serious effects on a fetus, so it is best to know your immune status prior to conceiving. Immunity can be conferred in two ways: either by having had the illness or by being vaccinated against it. If you are uncertain whether you are immune to chickenpox, a simple blood test can tell.
Pregnant women now have one more reason to see their doctors—to get a flu shot. A new study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that moms-to-be who get a flu vaccine also provide immunity to their newborns. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) OKs the vaccine for people older than 6 months, including pregnant women.
See your doctor several months before you want to conceive—and bring your partner. Doing so may help you prevent birth defects, pregnancy complications or prematurity, the March of Dimes reports.
Tell your doctor about any prescription or over-the-counter drugs or herbal remedies that you are taking.
Begin taking a prenatal vitamin with folic acid daily.
Unless your child has an underlying chronic condition such as asthma that might make the flu rougher for her, I don't think the vaccine is worthwhile. First, if the vaccine isn't formulated for the particular flu strain that appears in any given year, it's likely to be ineffective. It's also a pain in the butt, since it has to be given every year by injection. While this is my personal opinion, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all babies between 6 and 23 months get a flu shot annually.
The growing number of vaccines recommended for babies, coupled with concern over potentially toxic ingredients, has left many parents worried. Here's some perspective from Dana Point, Calif., pediatrician Robert W. Sears, M.D. ("Dr. Bob"), author of The Vaccine Book (Little, Brown):
The growing number of vaccines recommended for babies and children, coupled with concern over potentially toxic ingredients, has left many parents worried and confused. Here, Dana Point, Calif., pediatrician Robert "Dr. Bob" W. Sears, M.D., author of the newly published The Vaccine Book (Little, Brown), shares his insights:
"Live-virus vaccines like varicella [chickenpox] or MMR [measles, mumps, rubella] aren't recommended during pregnancy," says Charles "Skip" Wolfe of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Immunizations and Respiratory Diseases. If you discover you're pregnant after receiving a live-virus vaccine, contact the Varicella Vaccine in Pregnancy Registry at 800-986-8999. (The CDC wishes to track such women, because there is a theoretical risk your baby could be born with congenital vari
Pop Quiz: What's more dangerous when you're pregnant: getting the flu or a flu shot? Not sure? How about this one: Are you up-to-date on your mumps vaccine? You'll probably have to think back to kindergarten. Or ask your mom in hopes she kept records.
In a word, yes. A study recently published in Pediatrics looked at 290 cases of childhood flu and found that the vaccination reduced the number of cases by about half in children 6 to 59 months old. What's more, the study showed that the vaccine is effective even if it doesn't perfectly match the strain of flu circulating during a particular season. Keep in mind that your baby must be at least 6 months old to receive the vaccine and that, if she's previously unvaccinated, she needs a follow-up shot at least one month later to be fully protected.