Vaccines during pregnancy: Are they safe?

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Vaccines during pregnancy: Are they safe?

Question

I'm wondering about vaccines during pregnancy. Which vaccines are recommended and which ones should I avoid?

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Answer

Generally, vaccines that contain inactivated (killed) viruses can be given during pregnancy. Vaccines that contain live viruses aren't recommended for pregnant women.

The only vaccine routinely recommended during pregnancy is an influenza (flu) shot for women who are pregnant during flu season — typically November through March. The flu shot is made from an inactivated virus, so it's safe for both you and your baby. Avoid the nasal spray vaccine, which is made from a live virus.

Your health care provider may recommend a tetanus and diphtheria (Td) booster shot if you haven't had one in 10 or more years or if you have a deep or contaminated cut during your pregnancy. A routine Td booster is typically given in the second or third trimester, but can be given anytime if needed due to possible exposure.

Another form of the tetanus and diphtheria vaccine — called the Tdap — also offers protection from pertussis (whooping cough). If you haven't previously been vaccinated with Tdap, your health care provider will likely recommend that you get a Tdap vaccine during your late second trimester or third trimester of pregnancy or as soon as your baby is born. By getting Tdap during pregnancy, you'll be able to transfer pertussis antibodies to your newborn, which will help protect your baby from pertussis until he or she can be vaccinated. In addition, if you're traveling abroad or you're at increased risk of certain infections, your health care provider may recommend other vaccines during pregnancy — such as hepatitis A, hepatitis B, meningococcal or pneumococcal vaccines.

Certain vaccines are generally avoided during pregnancy, including:

  • Chickenpox (varicella)
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Measles
  • Mumps
  • Rubella (German measles)

If you're planning a pregnancy, talk to your health care provider about any vaccines you may need beforehand. Live vaccines should be given at least a month before conception.

Last Updated: 2011-12-06
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