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Vaccinations and Pregnancy

Vaccines can help keep you and your growing family healthy. If you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, the specific vaccinations you need are determined by factors such as your age, lifestyle, medical conditions you may have, such as asthma or diabetes, type and locations of travel, and previous vaccinations.

If possible, make sure that your immunizations are up to date before becoming pregnant. Some vaccine-preventable diseases, such as rubella, can pose a serious risk to your health and that of your unborn baby. But, you can't get the vaccine to prevent rubella if you are currently pregnant.

NOTE: Did you know that your baby gets disease immunity (protection) from you during pregnancy? This immunity will protect your baby from some diseases during the first few months of life, but immunity decreases over time. Babies need to be vaccinated starting at birth to stay protected against 14 serious and potentially life threatening diseases.

Important Vaccines to Consider for Women Planning a Pregnancy

Rubella (German measles)

Rubella infection in pregnant women can cause unborn babies to have serious birth defects with devastating, life-long consequences, or even die before birth. Make sure you have a pre-pregnancy blood test to see if you are immune to the disease. Most women were vaccinated as children with the combination measles, mumps, rubella vaccine (MMR) but you should confirm this with your doctor. If you need to get vaccinated for rubella, you should avoid becoming pregnant until one month after receiving the MMR vaccine and, ideally, not until your immunity is confirmed by a blood test.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a serious liver disease that can lead to an incurable chronic (long term) infection that may result in liver damage and liver cancer. A baby whose mother has hepatitis B is at highest risk for becoming infected with hepatitis B during delivery. The Hepatitis B virus is spread through exposure to blood or body fluids. If you live with someone infected with hepatitis B, talk to your health care professional about getting testing for hepatitis B and whether or not you should be vaccinated.

Whooping Cough (Pertussis)

Whooping cough is one of the most common vaccine-preventable diseases in the United States. It is caused by bacteria that spread easily from person to person through personal contact, coughing, and sneezing. It can be very serious for babies and can cause them to stop breathing. Hundreds of babies are hospitalized each year for whooping cough, and unfortunately, some die from it. Many infants who get pertussis catch it from their older brothers and sisters, or from their parents — who might not even know they have the disease. Pregnant women should receive a dose of Tdap during each pregnancy, preferably at 27 through 36 weeks - to protect themselves and their baby. In addition, all family members and caregivers (like babysitters or grandparents) of infants should also get vaccinated with Tdap.

Influenza (Flu)

The flu vaccine is safe, and very important, for a woman who is pregnant to receive the inactivated flu vaccine (also called the "flu shot"). Pregnant women who get the flu are at increased risk for severe illnesses from influenza and their babies are also at risk. Complications from the flu can include premature labor, babies that are small for gestational age, hospitalization, and, rarely, death. risk for serious complications and pregnant woman with flu also have a greater chance for serious problems for their unborn baby, including premature labor and delivery. Pregnant women can receive the flu shot at any time, during any trimester. In addition, because babies younger than 6 months are too young to receive flu vaccine, it is important that everyone who cares for your baby also get a flu vaccine. You should continue to get a yearly flu vaccine as the first and most important step in protecting you and your family against the flu.

Vaccines for Travel

If you are pregnant and planning international travel, you should talk to your doctor at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to discuss any special precautions or vaccines that you may need. Many vaccine-preventable diseases that are rare in the United States are still common in other parts of the world. Depending on where you plan to travel, you may need additional vaccinations. However, there are some vaccines that should be avoided during pregnancy, so it's best to weigh the risks and benefits of vaccination based on your destination.

Your Vaccination History

It's important for you to keep an accurate record of your immunizations. Sharing this information with your health care professional will help determine which vaccines you'll need during pregnancy. If you or your doctor does not have a current record of your immunizations, you can try:
  • Asking your parents or other caregivers if they still have your school immunization records. Ask them which childhood illnesses you've already had - which sometimes provides immunity in adulthood.
  • Contacting your previous health care providers or other locations that you may have received vaccines at, e.g. the health department, work, or pharmacies that you have received vaccinations from.

Reference: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention