Recent reports of the measles epidemic in Wales have reminded me that I am not immune to rubella, also known as German measles (thanks to its discovery by German physicians in the 18th century).
We discovered this after the blood test at my first booking appointment last year. For some reason, I appear to have never been immunised against rubella, although presumably I had the MM (measles and mumps) components of the MMR jab as otherwise they would have showed up too. The MMR vaccine has been around since the eighties, and I’m not sure why others the same age as me such as Elly had it and I didn’t! Oh well. Unfortunately you can’t get immunised while pregnant as it would be injecting the live virus, so the only thing that can be done in a situation like mine is to have the vaccination straight after the birth and in the meantime just “be careful”.
The rubella virus
Generally speaking, rubella appears to be less scary than proper measles; however, in pregnancy, it can be extremely serious, especially during the first 16 weeks according to the NHS. The baby can develop something called “congenital rubella syndrome” which is accompanied by all sorts of horrid-sounding health problems.
Fortunately, I have now exited the danger zone, and even when I was in the midst of it I was vaguely aware that the disease was so unusual there was no real cause for worry – in the same article, the NHS claims that the last recorded case of congenital rubella syndrome was in 2007. However, it is an unpleasant thought that there could be hideous bacteria flying around in the air; like the flu, rubella is spread via infected droplets of moisture when someone sneezes, coughs or even just talks. During the longest winter of all time I ensured I kept my gloves on throughout any journey on public transport!
Today I had another vaccination: for whooping cough.
Since a recent increase in whooping cough cases in the UK, the NHS now recommends that all pregnant women get vaccinated between 28-32 weeks. As babies cannot be immunised themselves until they are two months old, being vaccinated while pregnant is supposed to prevent your baby from contracting the infection. Whooping cough, like rubella, can be very serious and even fatal for babies.
My GP stressed it was my choice whether I had the vaccination or not. She did tell me that only one out of all her pregnant patients had turned down the vaccine, so I figured it was safety in numbers. The reason is that the NHS, as with many things like this, only “recommends” the vaccination; some women are worried about potential negative side effects and the lack of clinical trials on this drug. But according to a BBC article, the vaccination should be a “no-brainer” for pregnant women.
The whooping cough vaccination can only be taken in combination with diphtheria, tetanus and polio. Prior to our trip to Africa a couple of years ago I had these three vaccinations; today the nurse informed me that since I’d had them so recently I might have extra special negative side effects i.e. feeling “rough” and experiencing flu symptoms, as well as the usual sore arm.
The sofa is on standby!