Immunizations and Pregnancy

Overview

Your immunity protects both you and your unborn baby (fetus). After you have been immunized (vaccinated) against or infected by a virus or bacteria, your body forms an immunity to it. Full immunity can protect you from future infection, either for a lifetime or a limited period. Partial immunity strengthens how well your body can fight that infection.

Before you become pregnant, be sure to review your immunization history with your doctor. Even if you had a vaccine as a child, it doesn't guarantee that you are now fully immune. It depends on the virus or bacteria.

Before pregnancy: Rubella, measles, mumps, chickenpox

Rubella, measles, mumps, and chickenpox can harm a growing fetus. They can cause birth defects, fetal death, or premature birth. Chickenpox can also be dangerous for you when you're pregnant.

If you don't know if you're immune to rubella, measles, or chickenpox, talk to your doctor about a blood test for antibodies to that virus. If you aren't immune, have the vaccination before you get pregnant. To allow time for your body to develop antibodies to the virus, keep using birth control for at least 4 weeks after the vaccination.footnote 1

Before or during pregnancy: Flu, COVID-19, and whooping cough (pertussis)

Flu, COVID-19, and whooping cough (pertussis) are dangerous diseases for newborns and young infants. The flu and COVID-19 can also be dangerous for you when you're pregnant. Getting the flu, COVID-19, and Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis) vaccines during pregnancy is considered safe for your fetus. And these vaccines protect both you and your newborn. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the following:

  • If you didn't get the yearly flu vaccine yet, get the flu shot before or during your pregnancy.footnote 2 This is especially important if you have a chronic health problem (including asthma). The intranasal vaccine contains live virus, so it is not used during pregnancy.
  • Protect yourself against pertussis with the Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria , and pertussis) vaccine before or during each pregnancy.footnote 1
  • Get the COVID-19 vaccine before or during your pregnancy.footnote 3
  • Your other children should receive their immunizations on schedule. Having your child vaccinated against diseases does not increase your risk for becoming infected with them. You do not need to speed up or delay your child's immunizations.

If you are already pregnant and are not immune

  • Rubella, measles, or chickenpox: If you are not immune to these diseases, your doctor will recommend that you wait until after childbirth to have the vaccine. Instead, you must take every precaution to prevent exposure to these viruses while you're pregnant.
  • Other vaccines: If you are at risk of being exposed to hepatitis A, hepatitis B, polio, meningitis, or pneumococcal bacteria, your doctor may recommend that you get vaccinated against these infections during pregnancy.

References

Citations

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2012). Guidelines for Vaccinating Pregnant Women. Available online: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/preg-guide.htm.
  2. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (2010). Influenza vaccination during pregnancy. ACOG Committee Opinion No. 468. Obstetrics and Gynecology, 116(4): 1006–1007.
  3. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists' Immunization, Infectious Disease, and Public Health Preparedness Expert Work Group (2020, updated 2021). Practice advisory: COVID-19 vaccination considerations for obstetric–gynecologic care. https://www.acog.org/clinical/clinical-guidance/practice-advisory/articles/2020/12/covid-19-vaccination-considerations-for-obstetric-gynecologic-care. Accessed August 4, 2021.

Credits

Current as of: February 23, 2022

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
John Pope MD - Pediatrics
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine

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