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Vaccines for women

Published in Women's Services, For the Health of It Author: Vickie Nash, MD

It was two months before my confirmation in eighth grade and I looked like a chipmunk with my swollen cheeks. I had a headache, fever, stiff neck and felt weak. I had the mumps! Who would have thought this? Hadn't I had all my vaccines?

Yes, the swelling did decrease before the big confirmation day, but I later learned that I was not immune to the measles as well. So I got my MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine.

Fast forward to my medical training to become an obstetrician gynecologist…I learned that the measles, mumps, and rubella can impact one's reproductive organs. Women may have swelling of the ovaries with mumps; men may get swollen testicles and can have their fertility affected. Women that contact rubella when they are pregnant can have babies born with cataracts, deafness and other birth defects. The MMR vaccine prevents this.

Another vaccine that is important for girls and young women is the quadrivalent HPV vaccine, otherwise known as Gardasil. It’s called quadrivalent because it protects against four types of HPV, types 6/11/16/18. The vaccine protects against cervical, vaginal and vulvar cancers as well as vaginal and vulvar warts. It is for girls and women ages 9 to 26, as well as for boys and men now. The prevalence of cervical HPV infection is estimated between 14 to 35 percent and most do not even know they have the virus unless tested. The Gardasil vaccine helps protect against four of the most common HPV types. What girl or woman wants warts anywhere on their body, especially in the vaginal and vulvar area? The Gardasil vaccine prevents this.

A third vaccine that is important for pregnant women to get is the TDAP. It helps protect a newborn baby against the whooping cough. It is devastating to hear of newborn infants being buried four weeks later in their baptismal gowns because the baby got the whooping cough and died; a vaccine-preventable illness. By giving a pregnant mom the TDAP, she can form antibodies in her blood stream that fight the whooping cough and give them to her baby via the placenta, which helps protect that baby from the whooping cough for weeks after the baby is born.

So vaccines aren’t just for kids! They’re for adult women, too! Protect yourself and protect your children. Get vaccinated.

Have questions about which vaccines you may need? Log in to MyChart to send a secure message to your provider.