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The Measles Outbreak and Pregnancy: What You Should Know

You’ve definitely seen or read about it in the news; the United States is experiencing the greatest number of reported measles cases since 1994. As of May 17, 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 880 individual cases of measles in 24 states. Why is this measles outbreak happening? Measles is still common in many parts of the world, and travelers have brought measles back from other countries. It can spread quickly when it reaches a community in the U.S. where people are unvaccinated, because measles is highly contagious.

This is important to point out concerning pregnant women and women of a reproductive age. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has issued a practice advisory. In it, they discussed the heightened risk for those unvaccinated or undervaccinated pregnant women or babies under the age of 12 months. Measles infection during pregnancy can harm the mom-to-be as it is associated with increased risk of hospitalization and pneumonia. It can also cause miscarriage, stillbirth, low birth weight and increased risk of preterm delivery. However, a two-dose series of the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine is safe and is also 97 percent effective at preventing measles infection.

With this in mind, women should look at the following recommendations:

If you are thinking about getting pregnant, talk to your healthcare provider about your measles immunity status. If you’re not immune, you should receive the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine. ACOG recommends waiting four weeks after receiving the vaccine to attempt pregnancy, but this is not completely necessary.

If you are pregnant, most women should have immunity due to prior MMR vaccination, but a healthcare provider should check with the local health department to check for possible infection or exposure to measles given risks associated with measles and pregnancy, says ACOG. If you are pregnant and do not have immunity, your healthcare provider may recommend intravenous immunoglobulin (IGIV) treatment.

After you give birth (postpartum), if you lack immunity, you should receive the MMR vaccine to ensure measles immunity. ACOG says that breastfeeding has not been show to affect the immune response to MMR, and the vaccine is safe in breastfeeding women and has not been show to have any adverse effects in babies.

For children, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), they, along with the CDC and the American Academy of Family Physicians “recommend children receive the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine at age 12-15 months, and again at 4-6 years. Children can receive the second dose earlier as long as it is at least 28 days after the first dose.” The CDC says that the MMR vaccine is very safe and effective at preventing measles. There are minor common side effects, but getting the vaccine is much safer than contracting measles, mumps or rubella.

A good online resource on the measles outbreak is the CDC who updates and reports on Measles Cases in 2019 regularly. If you have any more questions, contact your healthcare provider.

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