I don’t know about you, but I have this idea that when a baby is born, they are so…innocent. Untainted by anything. Perfect. Whole. While in some respects this is certainly true, in my head I know that babies are actually profoundly affected by the lifestyle of their mama during pregnancy- her habits, exercise, diet, things she was exposed to, etc. Still, the idea that a baby is born and is exactly the way they should be really resonates in my heart.
I think it’s this thought that makes it so difficult for me to blindly swallow so many of the procedures that are routinely performed on our newborns these days. I’m thankful for this, too- because with a little research, I’ve realized that many things aren’t as necessary as the mainstream medical world might have us believe- in fact, some can even be detrimental to our baby’s health. The Hepatitis B vaccination, routinely given immediately after birth, seems to be no exception.
Hepatitis B is a blood- and body fluid-borne disease that can be transmitted from mother to baby during birth, or later in life through contact with blood or from a sexual partner. It mainly effects the liver, and has symptoms very similar to the flu- so similar that some adults will contract Hepatitis B as adults and not even know. So why is every infant given this vaccine at birth? Is it really necessary? This is the big question.
Hepatitis B is one of the many diseases that mothers are routinely tested for during pregnancy, meaning that if a mother has tested negatively (assuming she has been monogamous through her pregnancy) she has no chance of passing the disease on to her baby. After the chance of contracting the disease during birth, the chances of a child contracting Hepatitis B during childhood is slim to none- it’s not until an individual reaches an age where they could be engaging in risky behavior (whether sexual or drug related) that their chance of contracting the disease goes up.
As with any vaccine, there are many reasons to be cautious when considering giving the Hepatitis B shot to your child- especially if you do not have the disease. Recently, the Hepatitis B vaccination was linked to multiple deaths in Chinese infants, and has been connected to various severe reactions in the United States as well.
So, should you give your newborn the Hepatitis B vaccine?
It might be a good idea if:
…you have tested positive for Hepatitis B
…you have engaged in sexual activity with someone who may have Hepatitis B since you’ve been tested
…you may have your child in a public daycare where they could possible be exposed through biting, etc (even here, you could delay a few years)
You could feel safe about holding off if:
…you tested negatively for Hepatitis B
…you did not engage in any risky behavior since testing
…you know that your child will not be exposed through other things (like daycare)
If all else fails:
…know that you can have your teen get the Hepatitis B vaccine later in life if you worry about their behavior
…you can always give a vaccine, but you can’t take one back once it’s been done