Why Should Pregnant Women Be Vaccinated?
Many women may not realize that they are not up-to-date on their immunizations and are susceptible to diseases that can harm them or their unborn child. Pregnant women should talk to their doctors to figure out which vaccines they may need and whether they should get them during pregnancy or wait until after their child is born.
Are Vaccines Safe?
All vaccines are tested for safety under the supervision of the FDA. The vaccines are checked for purity, potency and safety, and the FDA and CDC monitor the safety of each vaccine for as long as it is in use.
Some people may be allergic to an ingredient in a vaccine, such as eggs in the influenza vaccine, and should not receive the vaccine until they have talked to their doctor.
Which Vaccines Can I Receive While I’m Pregnant?
The following vaccines are considered safe to give to women who may be at risk of infection:
- Hepatitis B: Pregnant women who are at high risk for this disease and have tested negative for the virus can receive this vaccine. It is used to protect the mother and baby against infection both before and after delivery. A series of three doses is required to have immunity. The 2nd and 3rd doses are given 1 and 6 months after the first dose.
- Influenza (Inactivated): This vaccine can prevent serious illness in the mother during pregnancy. All women who will be pregnant (any trimester) during the flu season should be offered this vaccine. Talk to your doctor to see if this applies to you.
- Tetanus/Diphtheria/Pertussis (Tdap): Tdap is recommended during pregnancy, preferably between 27 and 36 weeks’ gestation, to protect baby from whooping cough. If not administered during pregnancy, Tdap should be administered immediately after the birth of your baby.
Can a Vaccine Harm My Unborn Baby?
A number of vaccines, especially live-virus vaccines, should not be given to pregnant women, because they may be harmful to the baby. (A live-virus vaccine is made using the live strains of a virus.) Some vaccines can be given to the mother in the second or third trimester of pregnancy, while others should only be administered either at least three months before or immediately after the baby is born.
Which Vaccines Should Pregnant Women Avoid?
The following vaccines can potentially be transmitted to the unborn child and may result in miscarriage, premature birth or birth defects.
- Hepatitis A: The safety of this vaccine hasn’t been determined, but it can be given if the benefits outweigh the risks. Women at high risk for exposure to this virus should discuss the risks and benefits with their doctors.
- Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR): Women should wait at least one month to become pregnant after receiving these live-virus vaccines. If the initial rubella test shows that you are not immune to rubella, then you will be given the vaccine after delivery.
- Varicella: This vaccine, used to prevent chicken pox, should be given at least one month before pregnancy.
- Pneumococcal: Because the safety of this vaccine is unknown, it should be avoided in pregnancy, except for women who are at high risk or have a chronic illness.
- Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) and Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IPV): Neither the live-virus (OPV) nor the inactivated-virus (IPV) version of this vaccine is recommended for pregnant women.
- HPV Vaccine: To prevent the human papillomavirus virus (HPV).
What Side Effects Can I Expect After a Vaccination?
Side effects may occur up to three weeks after vaccination. If you experience any severe side effects, be sure to tell your doctor.
- Hepatitis A: Soreness and redness at injection site, headache, fatigue, severe allergic reaction in very rare cases
- Hepatitis B: Soreness at injection site, fever
- Influenza: Redness and swelling at injection site that can last up to two days, fever
- Tetanus/Diphtheria: Low-grade fever, soreness and swelling at injection site
- Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR): Non-contagious rash, swelling of neck glands and cheeks, pain and stiffness of joints one to two weeks after vaccination
- Varicella: Fever, soreness or redness at injection site, rash or small bumps up to three weeks after vaccination
- Pneumococcal: Fever, soreness at injection site
- Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV): None
- Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IPV): Redness, discomfort at injection site