• MGH doctor develops vaccination guide for expecting mothers

    By: Kathryn Burcham

    Updated:

    BOSTON - A leading obstetrician at Massachusetts General Hospital has developed a set of guidelines – for what vaccines to give expecting mothers and when.

    Doctor Laura Riley has delivered thousands of babies over her career and says one very important thing can often get overlooked.

    “Our purpose was to make it easier for providers to do the right thing,” Dr. Riley explained. “Not that many people know that there are vaccines that can and should be given during pregnancy to protect that baby before the baby can start its own vaccine series.”

    Just published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Dr. Riley developed a one-sheet tool for doctors across country. It’s a table for the vaccines all patients should receive during and after their pregnancy – and shots they should not.

    “Any provider can easily look at it and say, okay, my patient fits into this category and she needs this and this,” Riley said. 

    The two most important are the Flu shot and the lesser known Tdap, which produces immunity against pertussis, or whooping cough.

    “Babies that are born that don’t have any antibodies -- any way of protecting themselves from pertussis -- can get incredibly sick. In fact, some babies can die from it,” Riley said. 

    Just last month, health officials in Maine and New Hampshire declared a whooping cough outbreak, but only about 50 percent of pregnant women get the Tdap vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    Dr. Riley hopes simplifying the vaccination process will not only help physicians, but also expecting mothers, who can often be overwhelmed by the flood of information for new moms.

    “I think the vaccine conversation gets lost in the noise and I think there are so many other things happening during pregnancy,” she said. 

    MORE: Beachgoers beware: Expect dangerous rip currents from Tropical Storm Chris

    Next Up: