Vaccines help keep people safe from different diseases and illnesses, but are they safe during pregnancy?
In this article:
- What Are Vaccines?
- What Are the Four Types 0f Vaccines?
- Are Vaccines Safe During Pregnancy?
- How Many Vaccines Should You Get While Pregnant?
- Which Vaccines Are Given During Pregnancy?
- Why Do You Need to Get the Flu Shot?
- Why Do You Need to Get the Tdap Shot?
- When Should Pregnant Women Get the Vaccines?
- Are There Any Side Effects in Getting Vaccines While Pregnant?
- What Vaccines Should You Avoid During Pregnancy? Are There Any Contraindications?
Frequently Asked Questions About Vaccines During Pregnancy
What Are Vaccines?
They are substances that help protect us from potentially dangerous bacterial or viral infections. It helps train our immune system by introducing a weaker or partial version of the disease.
It gives the body the opportunity to fight the disease and create antibodies without experiencing the full range of the symptoms. The antibodies you create should give you immunity against the disease.
Vaccines are also known as immunization shots.
What Are the Four Types 0f Vaccines?
There are four main categories:
- Toxoid vaccines use a germ’s toxin that causes certain diseases. Examples of this are diphtheria and tetanus shots.
- Live-attenuated vaccines use a weakened form of the germ that causes a particular illness. Examples of this are the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) and chicken pox immunization shots.
- Subunit, recombinant, polysaccharide, and conjugate vaccines use parts of the germ (ex: a protein, it’s casing/capsid, or sugar) to help the body develop immunity against the disease. Examples of this are the human papillomavirus (HPV) and hepatitis B shots.
- Inactivated vaccines use a dead version of the disease-causing germ. Examples of this are the flu, hepatitis A, and polio shots.
Mumps Definition: It is an infection that causes the glads below the ears swell. It’s more common among children who have not received the vaccine, but adults can get it as well.
Rubella Definition: Rubella or German measles is a viral illness. It leads to a rash and other flu-like symptoms.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) Definition: This is the most common sexually transmitted virus in the United States. This virus can lead to cervical cancer in women.
Hepatitis Definition: Hepatitis is the inflammation of the liver and can lead to cirrhosis or liver cancer. There are five different types of hepatitis (A, B, C, D, and E) caused by five different viruses.
Are Vaccines Safe During Pregnancy?
The short answer to this question is: it depends. There are many safe vaccines during pregnancy.
Some are recommended for all pregnant women, while others are only recommended for those with certain medical conditions. There are some vaccines doctors do not recommend for expectant moms.
Certain inactivated and toxoid vaccines are safe for pregnant women. While doctors don’t usually recommend live-attenuated vaccines for expectant moms.
How Many Vaccines Should You Get While Pregnant?
Two vaccines are routinely recommended for expectant mothers. Doctors may recommend other vaccines for pregnant women if they have certain medical conditions or if they are at risk for certain illnesses.
Which Vaccines Are Given During Pregnancy?
The two vaccines recommended for almost all pregnant women are:
- Flu (influenza) shot
- Tetanus-diphtheria and whooping cough/pertussis shot (Tdap)
The following are recommended for pregnant women who have specific health conditions or are at risk for certain diseases:
- Hepatitis A (HepA) – for women who are at risk of a hepatitis A infection
- Hepatitis B (Hep B) – for women who are at risk of a hepatitis B infection
- Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib) – for women with certain high-risk conditions (ex: women with a malfunctioning spleen)
- Meningococcal ACWY (MenACWY, MCV4) – for women who have certain medical conditions
- Meningococcal B (MenB) – for women who have certain medical conditions
- Pneumococcal (Pnuimovax, PPSV; Penvar, PCV) – for women who are at risk of pneumococcal disease or who have gestational diabetes
Consult your doctor to help you determine the appropriate immunization shots you will need during your pregnancy.
Why Do You Need to Get the Flu Shot?
Your body suppresses your immune system while you’re pregnant. It does this so that it doesn’t reject the baby as foreign substance.
It means that pregnant women can be more susceptible to certain illnesses.
That’s why it’s important to get your regular flu shot even if you are pregnant. It protects you, your baby, and the people around you.
Other family members or close contacts should also consider getting the flu shot. This helps limit the risk of exposing the pregnant mom and her baby to the flu.
The flu/influenza shot is an inactivated vaccine and is safe for both the mother and baby. Pregnant women should not use the influenza nasal spray variant of this vaccine because it uses live virus instead of dead ones.
Why Do You Need to Get the Tdap Shot?
The Tdap is a combo vaccine that protects against the following:
Doctors recommend that women are given Tdap for each pregnancy. Pregnant women who receive this shot pass on the protection to their baby.
This is important because whooping cough can be dangerous for newborns.
When Should Pregnant Women Get the Vaccines?
Ideally, expectant moms should get the flu shot during the flu season (usually between March-November). Otherwise, it’s safe to administer this anytime throughout the pregnancy.
Tdap, on the other hand, should be given at the early part of the third trimester (between weeks 27-36).
The other immunization shots are given on a case-to-case basis. The doctor will determine when it’s best to administer it.
Are There Any Side Effects in Getting Vaccines While Pregnant?
Expectant moms may experience the same mild side effects these immunization shots have on other people.
Flu shot side effects include:
- muscle ache
- soreness, redness, or swelling in the area of the shot
Tdap shot side effects include:
- body ache
- soreness, redness, or swelling in the area of the shot
These side effects should only last for a few days.
What Vaccines Should You Avoid During Pregnancy? Are There Any Contraindications?
Expectant moms should avoid vaccines that use live viruses. Specifically, they should avoid:
- Human papillomavirus (HPV)
- Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR)
- Varicella (chicken pox)
- Varicella-zoster (shingles)
It’s best to receive these immunizations before you try to become pregnant.
If you inadvertently get any of these immunizations while you’re pregnant, it normally shouldn’t be a problem. Although, it’s best to inform your doctor about it.
Watch this video by Dr. Paul Offit to learn more about vaccines courtesy of The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia:
Pregnancies can be challenging enough. You don’t want to worry about getting sick while you’re baking a bun in your oven.
The right vaccines given during pregnancy can help protect the expectant mom and her unborn baby. Consult your doctor about the appropriate shots for you.
If you’re planning to get pregnant any time soon, it might be worthwhile to talk to your doctor about the vaccines you should get before conceiving.
Have you consulted your doctor about getting vaccines during your pregnancy? Let us know in the comments section.