Immunizations and Vaccinations during Pregnancy
Immunizations and vaccinations protect
you from diseases. A vaccine is given to provide you with protection
against infection and is usually given by injection or taken orally.
Each dose of a vaccine contains a very small amount of a weak-ened form
of the disease. When you receive a vaccine, your immune system forms
antibodies to fight the disease in the future. In most cases, this is
enough to keep you from getting a disease. However, in some cases, it
doesn’t prevent the disease entirely but greatly reduces severity of
Vaccines come in three forms—live virus,
killed (dead) virus and toxoids (chemically altered proteins from
bacteria that are harmless). Most vaccines are made from killed
viruses; it’s impossible to get the disease after receiving this type
of vaccine. With a live-virus vaccine, the virus is so weakened that if
your immune system is normal, you probably won’t get sick from it.
Many women of childbearing age
in the United States and Canada have been immunized against measles,
mumps, rubella, tetanus and diphtheria. A blood test for measles is
necessary to determine immunity. The diagnosis of rubella is difficult
without a blood test. Physician-diagnosed mumps or a mumps vaccination
is necessary evidence of immunity.
Risk of Exposure
During pregnancy, try to decrease your
chance of exposure to disease and illness. Avoid visiting areas known
to have diseases. Avoid people (usually children) with known illnesses.
It’s impossible to avoid all exposure. If you have been exposed, or if
exposure is unavoidable, the risk of the disease must be balanced
against the potential harmful effects of vaccination.
Can I get a flu shot while I’m pregnant?
Yes, you can. In fact, most healthcare providers recommend a pregnant woman receive a flu shot while she’s pregnant.
A vaccine must be evaluated in terms of
its effectiveness and potential for complicating pregnancy. There is
little information available on harmful effects on the developing fetus
from vaccines. However, we know live-measles vaccine should never be given to a pregnant woman.
Vaccinations to Protect You during Pregnancy
The only immunizing agents recommended
for use during pregnancy are the Tdap vaccine and the flu vaccine. The
Tdap vaccine (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis) can help you avoid
whooping cough. Be sure to get a Tdap booster if it’s been 10 years or
more since your last one. In addition, if you work in the garden, with
your hands in dirt, you need a booster.
Get a flu
shot during pregnancy. If you get the flu during pregnancy, you have a
greater chance of complications, such as pneumonia. Experts recommend all
women who will be pregnant during flu season get a flu shot. A flu shot
can protect you against three strains of influenza. Flu shots can be
given safely during all three trimesters. Talk to your healthcare
provider about it.
Other Vaccines during Pregnancy
As many as 35% of all pregnant women
are at risk of contracting measles, mumps or rubella because they
haven’t been vaccinated or they have been vaccinated but their immunity
has weakened. However, vaccination for measles, mumps and rubella (MMR)
should be administered only when you are practicing birth
control. You must continue to use contraception for at least 4 weeks
after receiving this immunization.
A pregnant woman should receive primary vaccination against polio only if her risk of exposure to the disease is high. Only inactivated polio vaccine should be used.
If your healthcare provider believes you may be at risk for contracting hepatitis B, it’s safe to take the vaccine during pregnancy. Talk with your healthcare provider if you have concerns.
If you have lung problems, asthma or heart problems, you may want to talk to your healthcare provider about the pneumococcal vaccine
to protect you against bacteria that can cause pneumonia, meningitis
and ear infections. A plus to taking this vaccine: One study showed
antibodies you make after taking the vaccine pass to your baby and can
protect him or her from ear infections for up to 6 months!