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No one likes being poked in the arm with a needle, but when it comes to keeping your newborn healthy, that's just what doctors and health experts recommend -- for parents. "In addition to the direct benefit of preventing birth defects in the fetus and illness in the pregnant woman, vaccination protects against infection with bacteria or viruses by stimulating the body's immune system to produce antibodies that in many cases are protective," says C. Mary Healy, M.D., director of vaccinology and maternal immunization for the Center for Vaccine Awareness and Research at Texas Children's Hospital. "A newborn baby's immune system is not mature or developed enough to produce these antibodies in the first few weeks to months of life. Antibodies from the mother are transferred to the fetus while still in the womb."
Dad needs to get in on the act, too. Most newborns that come down with illnesses such as whooping cough and flu catch it from someone inside the home. "It's important for anyone coming into contact with a child six months and younger to be vaccinated against these conditions," says Dr. Healy.
The best time for Mom to get vaccinated is before conception. If you've already missed that time frame, consult with your OB before getting any vaccination. If you decide to wait, be sure to get protected soon after you give birth.
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