Vaccinations and pregnancy

KEY POINTS

  • Make sure your vaccinations are up to date before you get pregnant.

  • When you do get pregnant, talk to your health care provider about vaccinations that are safe to get during pregnancy.

  • Vaccinations can help protect you from certain infections that can harm you and your baby during pregnancy.

  • Vaccinations you get during pregnancy help keep your baby safe from infection during the first few months of life until he gets his own vaccinations. 

  • Not all vaccinations are safe to get during pregnancy. Talk to your health care provider to make sure any vaccination you get is safe for you and your baby.

What is a vaccination?

A vaccination is a shot that contains a vaccine. A vaccine is a medicine that helps protect you from certain diseases. During pregnancy, vaccinations help protect both you your baby. Make sure your vaccinations are current before you get pregnant. And talk to your health care provider about vaccinations that are safe to get during pregnancy.

This chart from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (also called CDC) shows which vaccinations are recommended before, during and after pregnancy. 

Before you get any vaccination, tell your provider if you have any severe allergies or if you’ve ever had a severe allergic reaction to a vaccine. An allergy is a reaction to something you touch, eat or breathe in that makes you sneeze, itch, get a rash or have trouble breathing. For example, some vaccines are made with eggs. If you’re allergic to eggs, those vaccines may cause an allergic reaction for you. If you have allergies, your provider can tell you which vaccines are safe for you. And you may need to get the vaccine at your provider’s office or at a hospital or health clinic so you can get treatment quickly if you have an allergic reaction. 

What vaccinations are recommended before pregnancy?

If you’re thinking about getting pregnant, get a preconception checkup. This is a medical checkup you get before pregnancy to help make sure you’re healthy when you get pregnant. At your checkup, ask your provider if you need any vaccinations and how long to wait after getting them to try to get pregnant.

If you have a copy of your vaccination record, share it with your provider. If you don’t have a copy, your provider can do blood tests in most cases to find out what vaccinations you need.

Your provider may recommend these vaccinations before you get pregnant:

Flu (also called influenza). Get a flu shot once a year before flu season (October through May). The flu is a serious disease that can cause fever, chills, cough, sore throat, body aches, vomiting and diarrhea. If you get the flu during pregnancy, you’re more likely than women who don’t get it to have serious problems, like preterm labor and premature birth (labor and birth before 37 weeks of pregnancy). Babies born prematurely may have more health problems and may need to stay in the hospital longer than babies born later. The flu shot is safe to get before and during pregnancy.

There are many different flu viruses, and they’re always changing. Each year a new flu vaccine is made to protect against three or four flu viruses that scientists think are going to be most common during the upcoming flu season.

HPV (stands for human papillomavirus). HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection (also called STI, sexually transmitted disease or STD) in this country. An STI is an infection you can get from having unprotected sex or intimate physical contact with someone who is infected. HPV can cause genital warts or cervical cancer. The CDC recommends that women through age 26 get the HPV vaccine. You can’t get the HPV vaccine during pregnancy, so if you need it, get it before you get pregnant.

MMR (stands for measles, mumps and rubella). You probably got the MMR vaccine as a child, but you may need a booster shot (another dose) as you get older. Before you get pregnant, ask your health care provider for a blood test to see if you’re immune to measles, mumps and rubella. If you do get a booster shot, get another blood test after the shot to check your immunity again before you get pregnant. Wait 4 weeks after you get an MMR vaccination before you get pregnant. 

Measles spreads easily and can cause rash, cough and fever. It can be harmful during pregnancy and can cause miscarriage. Miscarriage is when a baby dies in the womb before 20 weeks of pregnancy. Mumps can cause fever, headache and swollen glands in the face and neck. Rubella can cause mild flu-like symptoms and a rash. It can cause serious problems during pregnancy, like miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth or congenital rubella syndrome (also called CRS). Stillbirth is when a baby dies in the womb after 20 weeks of pregnancy. CRS may cause a baby to be born with one or more birth defects, including heart defects, vision problems and hearing problems

Varicella (also called chickenpox). Chickenpox spreads easily and can cause itchy skin, rash and fever. If you get chickenpox during pregnancy, it can cause birth defects. Birth defects are health conditions that are present at birth. They change the shape or function of one or more parts of the body. Birth defects can cause problems in overall health, how the body develops or how the body works. If you’re thinking about getting pregnant and haven’t had chickenpox or been vaccinated for it, tell your provider. This vaccination isn’t safe to get during pregnancy. If you need it, get it before you get pregnant. Wait 1 month after you get this vaccination to get pregnant.

Other vaccinations. Your provider may recommend vaccinations to protect you against other diseases, depending on your risk. These include:  

  • Pneumonia. This is an infection in one or both lungs.
  • Meningitis. This is an infection that causes swelling in the brain and spinal cord.
  • Hepatitis A and B. These are liver infections caused by the hepatitis A and B viruses.
  • Haemophilus Influenzae Type b (also called Hib). This is a serious disease caused by bacteria. It can cause meningitis, pneumonia, other serious infections and death. Bacteria are tiny organisms that live in and around your body. Some bacteria are good for your body, and others can make you sick.
  • Tdap (stands for tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis). Pertussis also is called whooping cough. In some cases, providers recommend a Td vaccination, which protects against tetanus and diphtheria but not pertussis. Ask your provider what’s best for you.

What vaccinations are recommended during pregnancy?

The CDC recommends two vaccinations during pregnancy:

  1. Flu shot if you weren’t vaccinated before pregnancy.
  2. Tdap vaccine as early as possible between 27 and 36 weeks of pregnancy. Getting the Tdap vaccine during pregnancy helps protect your baby from pertussis in the first few months of life before she gets vaccinated herself. The first few months after birth are when your baby’s most at risk of getting pertussis and when pertussis is most dangerous. Get a new Tdap vaccine during every pregnancy.

If your provider thinks you may be at risk, he may recommend vaccinations during pregnancy to help protect you from:

  • Hepatitis A and B
  • Meningitis
  • Pneumonia
  • Tetanus and diphtheria (Td vaccination), although the Tdap vaccination is recommended. 

If you’re at high risk for serious infections because of travel outside the United States or other possible exposure, your provider may recommend these vaccinations during pregnancy:

  • Anthrax. This is a rare disease caused by bacteria. It can be found in soil, and people can get very sick when they come in contact with it. It’s not passed from person to person.
  • Japanese encephalitis. You can get the Japanese encephalitis virus from a bite from an infected mosquito. This disease can cause swelling of the brain. It kills 1 in 4 people who get infected.
  • Polio. This is a disease is caused by a virus that infects the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). It can cause lasting disabilities.
  • Rabies. You get rabies from a bite from an infected animal. If you’re bitten by an animal with rabies, call your health care provider right away. Rabies is a serious disease that can cause death if it’s not treated immediately.  
  • Typhoid (also called typhoid fever). Typhoid fever is serious and common in most of the world. You can get it from food and water. It can cause high fever. In rare cases, it can cause internal bleeding (bleeding inside your body) and death.
  • Vaccinia (for smallpox). Smallpox is a disease caused by a virus. It can spread from person to person, causing a rash and sometimes death. You don’t need this vaccination unless you’ve been exposed to smallpox, which isn’t likely. Because of vaccinations, there have been no cases of smallpox in the United States since 1949 and in the world since 1977. If you think you’ve been exposed, tell your provider.
  • Yellow fever. This disease is caused by a virus and spread by infected mosquitoes. In some cases, it causes high fever, bleeding, organ failure and death.

What vaccinations are not recommended during pregnancy?

These vaccinations are not recommended during pregnancy:

  • BCG for tuberculosis. Tuberculosis is caused by bacteria that usually infects the lungs.
  • HPV
  • MMR
  • Varicella
  • Zoster to protect you against shingles, which causes a painful rash

If you had any of these vaccinations before you knew you were pregnant, tell your provider.

What vaccinations are recommended after pregnancy?

If you haven’t caught up on vaccinations before or during pregnancy, do it after your baby’s born. This can help protect you from diseases in future pregnancies.

If you didn’t get the Tdap vaccine before or during pregnancy, get it right after you give birth. It takes your body 2 weeks to build up protection after getting vaccinated. Once that happens, you’re less likely to pass pertussis to your baby. Your baby gets his first pertussis vaccination at 2 months old. Until then, the best way to protect him is to get vaccinated yourself and keep him away from people who may have pertussis. Care givers, close friends, relatives and anyone else who spends time with your baby should get a Tdap vaccine at least 2 weeks before meeting your baby.

Your provider may recommend other vaccinations after you give birth. Most babies don’t start getting most vaccinations until they’re 2 months old. By getting vaccinated, you can help keep from getting sick and passing an illness to your baby.

If you’re breastfeeding, most vaccinations are safe for you and your baby. Tell your provider you’re breastfeeding before you get any vaccination to make sure it’s safe.

Do vaccinations cause autism spectrum disorder?

No. Vaccinations do not cause autism spectrum disorder (also called ASD). ASD is a developmental disability that can cause major social, communication and behavior challenges.

Last reviewed: April 2018

See also: Your baby’s vaccinations