Chances are, the last thing on your to-do list right now is to check whether your immunizations are up to date. You probably don't even remember the last time you had a vaccination. But if you're pregnant or planning to conceive, it's time to give your immunization history some attention. Some vaccine-preventable infections, such as rubella, can pose a serious risk to your health and your unborn baby's. In other cases, vaccines themselves pose a risk of birth defects if they're given to expectant women. Here are the facts:
Your primary care doctor should have a record of all the immunizations you've received under his care. Forwarding this information to your obstetrician's office will help them determine which vaccines you'll need during pregnancy. You might also consider asking your parents whether they have your school immunization records or contacting your former pediatrician to see if he has any information. Certain illnesses don't require an additional vaccine in adulthood. Also, you may want to find out which childhood illnesses you've already had, such as chickenpox, because that usually guarantees immunity in adulthood. But even if you can't track down all of these records, your doctor can still protect your health with the shots he deems appropriate for you.
As a rule, pregnant women should not receive live virus vaccines, such as the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine. Even though they're made from germs that are weakened with chemicals, they could still harm an unborn baby. Vaccines made from dead viruses, such as a flu shot, are safe. Those made from toxoids, which are harmless, chemically altered proteins from a bacterium, are also safe, as are certain genetically engineered viruses. If pregnancy prevents you from getting your shots, get them afterward to be well prepared for your next baby.