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Facts for Life

Immunization

Supporting Information

4.

All pregnant women and their newborns need to be protected against tetanus. Even if a woman was immunized earlier, she needs to check with a trained health worker for advice on tetanus toxoid immunization.

In many parts of the world, mothers give birth in unhygienic conditions. This puts both mother and child at risk of getting tetanus, a major killer of newborn infants.

If a pregnant woman is not immunized against tetanus, and tetanus bacteria or spores enter her body, her life will also be at risk.

Tetanus bacteria or spores grow in dirty cuts. These bacteria can grow if the umbilical cord is cut with an unclean knife or if anything unclean touches the end of the cord. Any tool used to cut the cord should be cleaned, boiled or heated over a flame, and allowed to cool. For the first week after birth, the baby's umbilical stump must be kept clean. No substances should be put on the stump.

All pregnant women should make sure they have been immunized against tetanus. This protects both mothers and newborns.

It is safe for a pregnant woman to be immunized against tetanus. She should be immunized according to this schedule:

First dose:As soon as she knows she is pregnant.
Second dose:One month after the first dose, and no later than two weeks before her due date.
Third dose:Six months to one year after the second dose, or during the next pregnancy.
Fourth dose:One year after the third dose, or during a subsequent pregnancy.
Fifth dose:One year after the fourth dose, or during a subsequent pregnancy.

After five properly spaced doses, the mother is protected for life and her children are protected for the first few weeks of life.