The Tetanus Toxoid (TT) vaccine is given during your pregnancy to prevent the risk of tetanus to you as well as your unborn baby. Tetanus is a life-threatening bacterial disease that is caused by the toxin of a bacterium called Clostridium tetani.
Tetanus bacteria enter the body through an open wound. Although the tetanus infection is more common when there is a deep puncture wound such as a bite, cut, burn or an ulcer, it may well be caused by a tiny prick or scratch on the skin.
The incubation period of the bacterium varies from 3 to 21 days. The symptoms of tetanus are lockjaw (mild contractions of the jaw muscles), stiffness in the neck, abdominal muscles, spinal fractures and swallowing difficulty. Some rare signs include fever, elevated blood pressure, sweating and rapid heart beat.
Tetanus affects a person’s nervous system and can be fatal if left untreated. It is preventable through immunisation. Antibodies formed in your body, after the vaccination, are passed on to your baby and protect her as well for a few months after birth.
First pregnancy recommendations
In your first pregnancy, your doctor will recommend at least two doses of the TT vaccine. Most doctors administer the first dose in the third trimester, usually in the seventh month of pregnancy.
The second dose is given at least four weeks after the first. The WHO also recommends that a third vaccine be given six months after the second dose to provide protection for at least five years.
Some doctors prefer to give three doses that are four weeks apart, starting at 28 weeks of pregnancy. While some may give the first dose in the first trimester, soon after your pregnancy tests are confirmed and after your first antenatal appointment.
Second pregnancy recommendations
If your second pregnancy is within two years of your first, your doctor will check your vaccination history. If you received both TT vaccines in your previous pregnancy, she will recommend only a booster dose.
If there is a larger gap between your first and second pregnancy your doctor will assess your situation and decide the schedule for you.
Though the TT vaccine is still commonly used, the Tdap (tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis) vaccine is also gaining ground. In many countries such as the US, the Td or tetanus-diphtheria vaccine is recommended for pregnant women. This vaccine is now available in Nigeria. Your doctor will suggest the best option for you.
Pregnant mums often wonder if they need a TT vaccine immediately after getting a cut or puncture wound. If you have hurt yourself after getting either the first or second dose of the TT vaccine, you may not need to get a TT shot right away. The vaccine will already have formed the antibodies in your body, which will protect you from the infection. If you haven’t received the tetanus shot, you will need medical attention.
All the same, it’s best to report any injuries to your doctor right away, so he/she can address your questions and concerns.
Courtesy of Dr Ashwini Nabar
BabyCenter India’s expert obstetrician and gynaecologist.