Talking to Your Pregnant Patients about Vaccines
standing ordersYour pregnant patients need to be vaccinated to help protect them and their babies against the flu and pertussis. However, many of them may not be aware of these recommendations. You are their most trusted source of health information during their pregnancies. Make sure you provide them with a strong recommendation for maternal vaccinations. Here are some tips and strategies to help you when you talk to them about vaccines.
- Administer indicated vaccines in your office if possible; if not, make a strong vaccine referral and document in the patient’s record.
- Use standing orders.
- Link timing of Tdap administration to another routine third trimester practice, like the glucose test conducted at 28 weeks.
- Use electronic medical record prompts to identify patients for which vaccines are indicated.
- Follow up with patients to ensure vaccine receipt if you do not administer vaccine in your office. Document vaccine receipt in the patient’s record.
- Remind staff to order recommended vaccines.
Present Vaccination as a Standard Part of Obstetric Care
- Provide each of your patients with information and resources about maternal vaccines when you meet with her at her first prenatal visit, and mention the timeframe for each vaccine when you discuss her pregnancy.
- Ensure your staff deliver consistent messages about the importance of maternal vaccinations (including nurses, front office, manager, etc.).
- Normalize vaccination as a part of patients’ pregnancy care.
- “When you come back for your next visit, it’ll be time for your Glucose Challenge Screening Test and your whooping cough vaccine.”
- “Flu season is just starting and that means it’s time for your flu vaccine. I’ll have the nurse bring it in.”
Provide a Strong Recommendation
- State clearly that you would like her to get vaccinated. CDC’s research indicated that some pregnant women did not feel their ob-gyns or midwives strongly recommended vaccines.
- “I recommend Tdap and flu vaccines for you and all of my pregnant patients, because I believe vaccines are the best way to help protect you and your baby against whooping cough and the flu.”
SHARE Additional Information (as needed)
For many patients, a strong clear recommendation will be sufficient to accept recommended vaccines. Others may need more information.
- SHARE tailored reasons why the recommended vaccine is right for the patient because she is pregnant, which may lead to certain risk factors.
- “This vaccine can protect you from the flu, which is more likely to cause severe illness for you because changes in your immune system, heart, and lungs during pregnancy make you more prone to severe illness from flu. Also, if you get the flu, you have a greater chance for serious problems for your baby, like premature labor and delivery.”
- “Whooping cough can be a threat to you or your baby. Since 2010, we see between 10,000 and 50,000 cases of whooping cough each year in the United States. The whooping cough vaccine during your pregnancy will pass some early protection against this disease to your baby.”
- HIGHLIGHT positive experiences with vaccines (personal or in your practice) to reinforce the benefits and strengthen confidence in vaccination.
- Tell your pregnant patients that CDC, ACOG, ACNM and you recommend they get certain vaccines during their pregnancy.
- ADDRESS patient questions and any concerns about the vaccines, including side effects, safety, and vaccine effectiveness in plain and understandable language.
- “Whooping cough vaccine has been carefully studied by medical and scientific experts. Getting the vaccine during pregnancy does not put you at increased risk for pregnancy complications like low birth weight or preterm delivery.”
- “The flu shot has been given to millions of pregnant women over many years. Flu shots have not been shown to cause harm to pregnant women or their babies.”
- “The most common side effects are mild, like redness, swelling, or pain in your arm where the shot was given. This should go away within a few days.”
- REMIND your patient that vaccines can protect her, her developing baby, and other loved ones from many common and serious diseases.
- “Getting the whooping cough vaccine now will not only help protect you from getting whooping cough and passing it on to your baby, but it will also pass protection on to your baby. That way, your baby will be born with some protection against this very dangerous disease.”
- “Flu activity is really picking up right now, and CDC says to expect even more cases in the coming months. That is why I want to make sure I help protect you and your baby now.”
- EXPLAIN the potential costs of getting the disease, including serious health effects, time lost (such as missing work or family obligations), and financial costs.
Questions about vaccine reimbursement and coding? See ACOG’s guide [25 pages, 7.39 MB].
Remember that patients trust you to give them the best advice on how to protect their health. To educate your pregnant patients on recommended vaccines, see these vaccination resources.