Vaccinations and pregnancy
Vaccinations can help protect you and your baby from certain infections 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.
Make sure your vaccinations are up to date before you get pregnant.
What is a vaccination?
A vaccination is a shot that contains a vaccine. Vaccines help protect you from certain harmful infections.
You probably got vaccinations as a child, but they don’t all protect you your whole life. Over time, some childhood vaccinations stop working, so you may need what’s called a booster shot as an adult. And there may be new vaccinations that weren’t available when you were young. Talk to your provider to make sure you’re fully protected with vaccinations.
This chart from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (also called CDC) shows which vaccinations are safe to get before, during and after pregnancy.
What vaccinations are recommended before pregnancy?
It’s best to be up to date on all your routine adult vaccinations before you get pregnant. These vaccinations are recommended before pregnancy:
- Flu. Get the flu shot once a year before flu season (October through May). 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 are likely to make people sick during the upcoming flu season. The flu shot contains killed flu viruses and it's safe to get the shot before or during pregnancy. If you get the flu during pregnancy, you’re more likely than other adults to have serious complications, like pneumonia, so it’s best to get vaccinated before you get pregnant.
- HPV (stands for human papillomavirus). This vaccine protects against the infection that causes genital warts. The infection also may lead to cervical cancer. The CDC recommends that women up to age 26 get the HPV vaccine.
- MMR (stands for measles, mumps and rubella). This vaccine protects you against measles, mumps and rubella (also called German measles). Measles is a disease that’s easily spread and may 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 is a diseases that’s spreads easily and may cause fever, headache and swollen glands. Rubella is an infection that may cause mild flu-like symptoms and a skin 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. Premature birth is birth before 37 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. This vaccine protects you from chickenpox, an infection that spreads easily and causes itchy skin, rash and fever. During pregnancy, it can be dangerous for a baby and cause birth defects. If you’re thinking about getting pregnant and haven’t had chickenpox or been vaccinated for it, tell your provider.
If you’re thinking about getting pregnant, get a preconception checkup. This is a medical checkup you get before pregnancy. At your checkup, ask your provider if you need any vaccinations or boosters. If you have a copy of your vaccinations record, bring it to your checkup. If you don’t have a copy, your provider can do a simple blood test to find out what vaccinations you need. If you do need any vaccinations, wait 1 month after you get them before you try to get pregnant.
What vaccinations are recommended during pregnancy?
The CDC recommends two vaccinations during pregnancy:
- Flu shot if you weren’t vaccinated before pregnancy.
- Tdap vaccine at 27 to 36 weeks of pregnancy. This vaccine protects against pertussis (also called whooping cough). Pertussis spreads easily and is dangerous for a baby.
If you come in contact with certain illnesses, if you’re at high risk for infection or if you’re travelling outside the United States, your provider may recommend other vaccinations during pregnancy. These include:
- Japanese encephalitis
- Vaccinia (for smallpox)
- Yellow fever
What vaccinations are not recommended during pregnancy?
These vaccinations are not safe to get during pregnancy:
- BCG (for tuberculosis)
Wait at least 1 month after getting any of these vaccinations before you try to get pregnant.
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 during pregnancy, you can get it right after you give birth. Getting the Tdap vaccine soon after giving birth prevents you from getting pertussis and passing it on to your baby. Your baby should get his first pertussis vaccine at 2 months old.
Until your baby gets his first pertussis shot, the best way to protect him is to get the vaccine yourself and keep him away from people who may have the illness. If they aren’t up to date on their vaccines, caregivers, close friends and relatives who spend time with your baby should get a Tdap vaccine at least 2 weeks before meeting your baby. Babies may not be fully protected until they’ve had three doses of the Tdap vaccine.
Getting other vaccines soon after giving birth can help prevent your baby from infection, too. Most babies don’t begin their regular vaccination schedule until 2 months of age. By you getting vaccinated, you can help keep from getting sick and passing an illness to your baby.
If you’re breastfeeding, it’s safe for you to get routine adult vaccines. Ask your provider if you have questions.
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. You may have heard about vaccines that contain thimerosal, a chemical that has mercury in it. Research shows that thimerosal in vaccines does not cause ASD. It’s no longer used in vaccines, except in tiny amounts in some flu shots. You can get a thimerosal-free flu shot if you want. Talk to your provider if you’re concerned about thimerosal in vaccines.
See also: Your baby’s vaccinations
Last reviewed: September, 2015