Travelling when pregnant can be worrisome, however for those moms to be who adore exploring, it’s not the end of the world. Dr. Pete Vincent of Netcare Travel Clinics and Medicross Tokai said pregnant women who intend to travel should consult a travel doctor well in advance of their planned trip to obtain advice on which vaccines are safe to use and what measures they should take to best protect their health and that of their unborn baby.
Dr. Vincent said that inactive vaccines – such as the influenza vaccine and the quadrivalent vaccine are considered safe during pregnancy and are also important for newborn babies, who are entirely dependent on maternal antibodies to provide passive immunity protection against common viral infections. He recommends that pregnant travellers have the current southern hemisphere influenza vaccination at least two weeks before travelling.
“Pregnancy makes them more susceptible to complications should they contract flu, and it will also provide some protection for the newborn baby. Women should have their vaccines between 27 and 36 weeks during each of their pregnancies with the inactive quadrivalent vaccine, which provides protection against whooping cough, tetanus, diphtheria and polio, and also provides the newborn with maximum passive immunity from their mother,” he added.
The doctor said there has been a rise in the number of reported cases of whooping cough, which is potentially dangerous for newborn babies. He suggests that everyone who comes into close contact with the newborn, including fathers, childminders, siblings and grandparents, should have vaccines against whooping cough. According to the Centres for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States, a whooping cough vaccine provides a 78% greater protection to the child during their first two months of life than those who did not get vaccinated.
“This is particularly important when one considers that babies are born with little or no immunity against infections like whooping cough, which is responsible for an alarming number of newborn deaths every year. Ensuring that mothers-to-be to receive this vaccine can provide important protection during a baby’s first few months of life.”
Dr. Vincent said active vaccines such as for measles, rubella and chickenpox, rabies and others, which contain a live but weakened form of a particular virus, may carry a theoretical risk for the foetus and should not be administered during pregnancy unless there are special circumstances, for example, if the expectant mother may have been exposed to rabies.
PREGNANT WOMEN SHOULD AVOID MALARIA AREAS
There is no safe anti-malaria prophylaxis available for pregnant women and areas where malaria is prevalent should be strictly avoided. Dr. Vincent warned that listeriosis, a foodborne bacterial infection, can have serious implications for maternal health, and be fatal for both unborn and newborn babies. He said: “This bacterial disease can be contracted by consuming contaminated processed deli meats or unpasteurised milk products, therefore pregnant women need to be cautious about the types of food they eat.
“Travel clinics, which are in constant contact with healthcare authorities around the globe to provide up-to-date information on health hazards and healthcare trends, are best placed to advise expectant mothers on how to protect their health during their travels,” he added.