Pregnancy comes with questions you may have never asked before. While getting the flu shot is otherwise no big deal, you start to wonder whether getting vaccines while pregnant is right for you and your baby.
Vaccines recommended by your doctor are safe to use during pregnancy, and 75% of pregnant women will get at least one vaccination before or during their pregnancy.
Want to know which vaccines you need and which to avoid? Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about receiving vaccines while pregnant.
Are Immunizations During Pregnancy Safe?
Vaccines are made from viruses as a way of immunizing patients against the disease the virus carries. There are two types of vaccines:
- Live virus
- Inactivated viruses
Generally, your doctor will keep you away from any vaccines carrying a live virus, but inactivated (or dead) virus vaccines are safe to use.
Every woman’s pregnancy is different, so your doctor or OB/GYN may recommend a different course of action. However, it’s likely you’ll only receive two vaccinations while pregnant.
Is There a Pregnancy Vaccination?
No, there are no vaccinations specifically designed to use during pregnancy. However, there are universal vaccines recommended to most women before, during and after their pregnancy.
The two vaccines regularly prescribed are the Tdap vaccine and the flu vaccine.
Tdap is short for tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis – three bacterial diseases that are particularly life-threatening for the very young, very old, and very pregnant among us.
Nearly 75% of pregnant women in the United States receive this vaccine during their pregnancy. Only around 12% skip it entirely.
The CDC recommends receiving the Tdap vaccine during the third trimester of your pregnancy because it protects newborn babies as much as it does their mothers.
Babies aren’t able to receive the whooping cough vaccine until they reach two months. As a result, they have a gap in their protection, leaving them at risk for the disease. When mothers get the vaccine late in their pregnancy, ideally between 27 and 36 weeks, the mother passes on the right antibodies to the fetus before birth, adding an extra layer of protection.
Your baby will then get the Tdap or DTaP vaccine during one of their check-ups after birth.
The Tdap vaccine is perfectly safe, but some women do experience some side effects. Common side effects include:
- Pain or swelling at the site of the injection
- A headache
Although these side effects may be annoying, they subside quickly. What is more, they’re worth suffering through. Whooping cough is a contagious disease that is once again growing in the United States. The disease is very serious for babies: half of the infants diagnosed with the infection require hospitalization.
Pregnant women are also encouraged to get the flu shot during pregnancy, particularly when they’re pregnant during flu season. It doesn’t matter what trimester you’re in: it’s almost always a good idea.
Like the Tdap vaccine, the flu shot adds protection for both you and baby. It prevents influenza and the complications that result from pregnancy.
Pregnant women are more likely to suffer the flu more severely that women who aren’t pregnant. They’re also more likely to be hospitalized due to complications from the flu.
What is more, women who get the flu during the first trimester are potentially more likely to see fetal birth defects, miscarriage, low birth weight, and premature birth. Given the increase in the severity of the flu over recent seasons, it’s not worth the risk.
A flu vaccine also protects your baby after their born. A newborn gets their first flu vaccine at six months – not before. By getting a flu vaccine during pregnancy, you’ll pass on the antibodies from your own vaccine to provide your little one with extra protection during their first few months. You’ll also share the antibodies on through breastmilk after the birth.
What Flu Vaccine Should I Get?
Your doctor should provide you with the injection rather than the nasal spray vaccine. The flu shot is an inactivated vaccine, so it’s safe for both of you.
It’s possible to get the flu shot at any stage during your pregnancy without complications. Although the vaccines may include a mercury-based preservative, there are no adverse effects for either women or fetuses when using the vaccine.
Other Vaccines While Pregnant
Most women receive the two vaccinations listed above, but some women may need additional vaccines.
If you plan to travel during your pregnancy, you may require some travelers’ vaccines before you go. Be sure to discuss your trip with your doctor at least six weeks before you’re due to leave to get the vaccines in good time.
Women with a chronic liver disease may also receive the hepatitis A vaccine.
Stay Up to Date With Your Vaccines
Pregnancy vaccination is common, but it doesn’t start with neonatal care. Women should be sure they’ve kept up-to-date with their vaccine schedule even before they become pregnant or consider getting pregnant.
The MMR vaccine is a particularly vital immunization to have before starting a family. Rubella can result in birth defects and miscarriage if you catch it while pregnant. If you’re not up to date already and are ready to start a family, get the MMR vaccine before trying to get pregnant.
Ask your doctor for your vaccine history or ask your parents for your immunization records from your school years to share them with your care providers during your pregnancy.
Vaccines While Pregnant: Safe and Essential
Inactive vaccines are safe to receive while pregnant, but they’re not only safe: they’re essential.
Your immunity is passed on to your baby through your placenta and then through your breastmilk after birth. These vaccinations protect your baby during periods where they can’t get vaccinations themselves, leaving them vulnerable.
Whatever your opinions on the flu shot, it’s importance grows once you get pregnant.
Looking for more ways to keep you and your baby healthy during pregnancy or more resources on getting vaccines while pregnant? Visit more resources here.