Vaccinations are key to preventing illness. While we think of immunizations as part of baby and child care, but they’re important for adults, too – particularly pregnant women.
Flu season is upon us, and knowing the facts about the influenza virus can help you make decisions that will keep you healthy. Pregnant women and infants are at high risk of respiratory complications from seasonal flu. H1N1 is a different virus than seasonal influenza, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines advise vaccinations for both types of the virus. For pregnant women, a new supply of N1H1 vaccines are available – just call for a quick appointment.
“The injected seasonal flu vaccine is safe in all trimesters of pregnancy, and is recommended for pregnant women,” says Andrew Markowitz, M.D., an OB/GYN at the Women’s Health and Menopause Center, Dr. Markowitz. “We have used our supply of seasonal flu vaccine, but encourage our patients to seek a flu shot at the local health department
Everyone needs to know how they can prepare for flu season and recognize and treat the flu if they do get sick. The CDC recommends that anyone with symptoms of flu should report them to their doctor. Influenza usually starts suddenly and may include the following symptoms:
• Fever (usually high)
• Feeling tired to extremely exhausted
• Sore throat
• Runny or stuffy nose
• Body aches
• Diarrhea and vomiting (more common among children than adults)
These symptoms don’t always mean that you have the flu. Many different illnesses, including the common cold, can have similar symptoms. If you suspect you have the flu, contact your doctor.
Antiviral drugs such as Tamiflu can be given to prevent flu in the event a person is exposed, and to treat a person who has flu. To prevent flu, Tamilfu should be taken for as long as flu viruses are circulating in a given setting, usually up to 10 days. To treat flu, Tamiflu is taken for just five days.
“We don’t recommend a trip to the doctor’s office to share the virus, but it’s important to contact your doctor right away if you think you have been exposed to the flu or that you have the flu,” emphasizes Dr. Markowitz, “because Tamiflu should be started within 48 hours of exposure to the virus.” Current data reveal no obvious risks for pregnant women who take Tamiflu.
Other important vaccinations
Several vaccinations are key to good health before, during, and after pregnancy.
Whopping cough and the Tdap vaccine
Whooping cough, or pertussis, is a bacterial respiratory infection that can strike all ages, but affects babies most severely. “It is very important for all children and mothers to be vaccinated against whooping cough,” recommends Dr. Markowitz. “The pertussis booster vaccine, known as Tdap, helps protect against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis. For pregnant women at risk for whooping cough, Tdap is recommended during the second or third trimester and women considering pregnancy. Many hospitals now routinely vaccinate women after they have a baby.” Most adults and healthcare workers, says Dr. Markowitz, should also talk to their doctors about getting a Tdap booster.
Hepatitis A and B
Another vaccination important during pregnancy is hepatitis A and B. “Hepatitis A is a serious liver disease, usually spread by contaminated food or water. Travel to certain countries, and some high-risk social circumstances may put you at risk,” says Dr. Markowitz. For pregnant women, the hepatitis A vaccine is considered low risk and generally safe.
Hepatitis B is spread through contact with body fluids or blood, including sexual transmission. It can also cause long-term infection and liver cancer, but can be prevented by immunization. Pregnant women who need protection may be vaccinated.
What’s safe during pregnancy?
Inactivated vaccines, such as the injected seasonal flu vaccine, whooping cough, and Hepatitis A and B, are safe during pregnancy. But live vaccines, including nasal spray flu vaccines, measles/mumps/rubella (MMR), and chicken pox (varicella) should not be given to pregnant women. If you are vaccinated with a live vaccine, avoid pregnancy for four weeks.
“In the United States, more than 30,000 adults die every year from diseases that could have been prevented by vaccinations,” reveals Dr. Markowitz. “If you aren’t sure if your vaccinations are up to date, or if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, call your physician for an appointment to review your immunization needs.”
To schedule an appointment with Dr. Markowitz or any one of the eight physicians at the Women’s Health and Menopause Center, call 248-932-9223.