Q: What vaccines should I have before getting pregnant?
A: If you're planning to become pregnant, it's a good idea to check out your immunization history (by contacting your regular doctor's -- or even your pediatrician's -- office) and send this info to your obstetrician. Certain vaccinations are unsafe during pregnancy, so make sure you're caught up now. Plus, having up-to-date vaccinations means you can pass the immunity on to your baby, which can help protect him as a newborn before he receives his own vaccinations.
Even if you can't track down all your records, don't worry. Sometimes a simple blood test can show your levels of immunity to certain diseases. In other cases, your doctor may decide to vaccinate you just to play it safe. Since some vaccines can be harmful to an unborn baby, be sure to ask your doctor if you should wait before conceiving and if so, how long. Some of the vaccines you may need include:
Tetanus-Diphtheria: If it's been a while (10 years of more) since your last tetanus booster, you should have another one. Tetanus bacteria can enter your bloodstream through cuts in your skin, and can make you and your baby very sick.
Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR): If you've never had rubella and never have been immunized against it, or tests results show your immunity to the measles is low, you should get this shot now and then wait a month before trying to conceive.
Chickenpox: If testing shows you've never had the illness, you should get vaccinated, since contracting chickenpox during pregnancy can be dangerous to your unborn baby.
Hepatitis B: Generally only healthcare or daycare workers need to be vaccinated against Hepatitis B, which is a viral infection that can cause nausea, fatigue, and in some cases chronic liver disease. If you contract hepatitis B during pregnancy, you can pass it on to your baby during labor and delivery.
Hepatitis A: This virus is spread through contaminated food or water, so if you live in an area where it's common, such as the West Coast or Southwest, or if you're planning to visit a developing country, ask your doctor about the vaccine. Hepatitis A has been linked to premature birth, but it's not as serious as hepatitis B.
Polio: You probably received the polio vaccine as a child, but if you plan on visiting India, Southeast Asia, or Africa during your pregnancy, you may need a polio booster shot to make sure you're still immune.
Pneumococcal: If you have a respiratory condition like asthma, your doctor may recommend this vaccine, which prevents some forms of pneumonia.
Flu shot: You'll need this vaccine once you become pregnant, so ask your doctor about receiving it during the start of flu season (October or November). Contracting the flu during pregnancy is no picnic, and you'll be more likely to be sick longer and develop complications like pneumonia.