Immunizations & Pregnancy
Infection or illness during pregnancy can be harmful to you and your baby. For this reason, immunization before, during and after pregnancy is important for keeping you and your baby healthy.
Preparing for pregnancy is a great time to immunize yourself to prevent disease from spreading to your unborn baby. You probably got immunized as a child, but some vaccines weaken over time. You may need booster shots to “boost” protection, and there may be new vaccinations that weren’t available when you were a child. Your health care provider can help make sure all your vaccinations are up-to-date and give information on which vaccines are recommended before, during and after pregnancy. He or she can also tell you which vaccines you should avoid.
Did you know that your baby gets disease immunity (protection) from you during pregnancy? To avoid the risk of hospitalization and serious complications for mom and baby, it is safe and recommended that pregnant women receive the influenza and Tdap vaccines to protect against flu, tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough).
While getting the flu shot during pregnancy is safe, getting the flu during pregnancy is not. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American College of Gynecologists (ACOG) recommend pregnant women receive the inactivated (shot form) flu vaccine as part of their prenatal care, since flu can be especially dangerous for moms-to-be and their unborn babies. Pregnant women who get the flu have a greater chance for serious problems for their unborn baby, including premature labor and delivery. When expectant mothers get a flu shot they not only protect themselves throughout their pregnancy but may also help safeguard their newborns, who cannot be vaccinated against flu until they’re six months old. Research shows that giving flu shots to all pregnant women would prevent one-third of their hospitalizations for flu and reduce infants’ hospitalization from more than 4,700 each year to just over 3,000.
Tdap (Tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis)
Tdap vaccine, which protects against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough) is recommended for pregnant women during every pregnancy, regardless of your vaccine history. Tdap should be given between 27 and 36 weeks of pregnancy to offer protection before delivery. This way, you are able to pass immunity onto your baby so he or she is protected after birth. Tdap vaccination during pregnancy is important because babies cannot be vaccinated with DTaP (the child form of Tdap) until they’re two months old and do not have substantial protection until at least six months of age after they’ve received three doses of DTaP. Infants are also most likely to have severe complications from pertussis.
If you come in contact with certain illnesses or if you’re at high risk for infection, your provider may also recommend other vaccinations during pregnancy.
The CDC does not recommend live virus vaccines for pregnant women. While highly infectious diseases such as rubella and chickenpox can cause birth defects, the vaccines that prevent these diseases are made with a weakened version of a live virus. Since live virus vaccines are not tested on pregnant women, it is unknown what risks could occur. Other live virus vaccines include measles, mumps, rubella (MMR), BCG (tuberculosis), smallpox vaccine, typhoid vaccine, and yellow fever, and the nasal spray flu vaccine.
After baby is born, the CDC recommends new mothers help protect their child from exposure to diseases such as measles, mumps and rubella (MMR), varicella (chickenpox), tetanus, diptheria and pertussis (Tdap) and influenza (if not yet vaccinated) before leaving the hospital. It is safe and beneficial to mom and baby for mothers to receive vaccines after birth, even when breastfeeding.
It is also important for adults and adolescents who have regular contact with your newborn to be vaccinated against diseases such as influenza and pertussis. Doing so can help surround the infant with a blanket or "cocoon" of protection against the disease until baby is old enough to be immunized. Learn more about how you and your family can provide a circle of protection for your new addition.
If you have questions about vaccines and pregnancy, please talk to your health care provider.