Monday 19 February 2018

Some important injections you may need

Flu vaccination is considered safe at any stage of pregnancy.
Flu vaccination is considered safe at any stage of pregnancy.

Nina Byrnes

Our GP advises on the importance of vaccination and what you can do to tackle a B12 deficiency.

Question: I'm expecting my first baby early next year. My GP advised me recently that I should attend for the flu vaccine and a whooping cough vaccine. Is this safe?It is important at any stage of your life to be aware of your vaccine history and know what diseases you are immune to. If you are unaware which illnesses or vaccines you have had, your GP can arrange blood tests to check your immunity to illnesses such as chicken pox, measles, mumps and rubella. If you are not immune to these, vaccination can be arranged.

Dr Nina replies: The MMR and chicken pox vaccines are both live vaccines so these should not be given during pregnancy and you should not become pregnant for three months after vaccination.

Many vaccines are safe to give in pregnancy and some are actually recommended. It is especially important to be protected against travel illness as if you become sick abroad this could have serious implications for you and your baby.

You specifically asked about flu and whooping cough vaccine. These are both recommended in pregnancy. Flu can be especially serious in pregnancy. Complications for mom and baby include pre-term labour, small for gestational age, hospitalisation and rarely death. Flu vaccination has been given to pregnant women around the world for many years and is considered safe at any stage of pregnancy.

Whooping cough infections have increased in recent years. It is thought that our immunity to vaccination wanes after several years and so many adults are no longer immune. Babies under six months of age are especially at risk of serious complications of whooping cough infection. Whooping cough vaccine is included in the 6:1 vaccination given at two, four and six months of age, but your baby is especially vulnerable in the first few months of life. Expectant mothers are advised to get vaccination between 27 and 32 weeks of pregnancy. Immunity takes about two weeks to kick in. Vaccination at this stage allows time for mom's immunity to pass to her baby providing protection in those vulnerable first months.

The vaccination given is Boostrix which actually contains whooping cough, diphtheria and tetanus. This vaccine is again considered safe in pregnancy.

Expectant parents spend a lot of time preparing a safe car and home environment for their newborn children. Considering protection from within is also important.

Question: I had blood tests with my  GP lately. She informed me  I am low in vitamin B12. I eat  lots of fruit and vegetables  so was surprised to hear I am low in vitamins. What can I do to improve this?

Dr Nina replies: Vitamin B12 plays an important role in normal metabolic function and health. It is essential for the formation of red blood cells. It supports the normal function of nerve cells and is required for the replication of DNA. Unlike other forms of B vitamins, B12 is found in animal sources of food such as eggs, dairy and meat, or in fortified cereals. Those who avoid animal foods, such as vegetarians, and especially vegans, are particularly at risk of deficiency.

B12 is absorbed in the stomach with a carrier protein called intrinsic factor. Conditions that affect the stomach, such as gastritis, or other medicines that affect the stomach such as aspirin or drugs that neutralise or stop acid production, may also result in reduced absorption of B12.

Symptoms of B12 deficiency include fatigue, numbness or pins and needles, muscle weakness, mood changes and difficulty with memory and concentration. It is most common in those with a family history of the condition.

B12 deficiency is often just picked up on a simple blood test. If B12 levels are low your GP will arrange further blood tests. These check for antibodies which may reduce your ability to absorb B12. If these are present you have a condition called pernicious anaemia.

If your diet is deficient it is important to include foods that contain B12 or to take a supplement. Injections can increase levels quickly. Those who have pernicious anaemia are unable to absorb B12 and will require B12 injections. Those with pernicious anaemia require an injection every three months for the rest of their lives.

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