It’s difficult enough to determine what’s safe to put in our bodies on a day-to-day basis, but those decisions can be even tougher if you’re pregnant. Many women are afraid to receive vaccines while pregnant because they worry it may harm the growing fetus. However, a few vaccines are safe during pregnancy and some are actually recommended for your own health and the health of your baby. Doctors advise against receiving vaccines that contain a live virus during pregnancy, but vaccines containing an inactive (dead) virus are generally considered safe.
For vaccines that aren’t on this list or ones you’re unsure about, talk to your healthcare provider to discuss the pros and cons of each. Certain vaccines may be recommended depending on your lifestyle, exposures and risks.
Inactivated Influenza: The Mayo Clinic recommends pregnant women receive the inactive flu shot during any trimester as it’s safe for the baby and can actually protect the pregnancy. It’s important to protect a pregnant mother from catching the flu as it could lead to health complications, such as fever and infection, which could be harmful or even fatal to the baby. It’s also important to note that while the flu shot is important, doctors advise against receiving the influenza nasal spray while pregnant as this contains the active flu virus.
Tetanus/Pertussis/Diphtheria (Tdap): The Center for Disease Control recommends that every pregnant woman gets the Tdap vaccine during each pregnancy, even if the mother has received the shot in the past, to prevent the baby from contracting whooping cough until old enough to receive the vaccine as a child. The Tdap vaccine doesn’t contain any active viruses, making it safe for pregnant women. Ideally, this vaccine should be given early in the third trimester (weeks 27 to 36) for best results.
Vaccines That May be Safe
The vaccines listed above are safe for pregnant mothers and are actually recommended, but sometimes exposures may make it necessary to receive supplemental vaccinations.
Hepatitis A and B: If necessary, your doctor will discuss the risks and benefits of receiving Hepatitis A and B vaccines during pregnancy. These vaccines do not contain an active virus so they should be safe for the pregnancy. The CDC recommends that pregnant women who are identified as being at risk for HBV infection during pregnancy should get vaccinated with the hepatitis B vaccine to prevent harm to the mother and growing baby. Risks including having more than one sex partner in the previous 6 months, having been evaluated or treated for an STD, recent or current injection drug use, or having had an HBsAg-positive sex partner. This vaccine can be tricky to determine if it’s necessary, so it’s best to talk with your physician.
Smallpox: The smallpox vaccine should only be given on the off chance that you happen to come in contact with the smallpox disease while pregnant. This vaccine shouldn’t be given to pregnant women as a preventive measure. But iif a pregnant woman does come in contact with the disease, the benefits of the vaccine usually outweigh the severity of developing smallpox.
Vaccines to Avoid During Pregnancy
Some vaccines are usually a firm “no” in pregnancy. These are almost never administered to pregnant mothers as there has either been inconclusive research on the effects on a fetus or studies have shown that they can be harmful.
Chickenpox (Varicella): If you’re not already vaccinated against chickenpox, you should wait until after you’re finished trying to conceive or after you’ve delivered your baby. The chickenpox vaccine contains a live virus, making it unsafe during pregnancy. If you fear you’ve come in contact with the disease while pregnant, talk to your doctor about inactive medications that can provide temporary immunity.
Measles/Mumps/Rubella (MMR): MMR is a vaccine usually administered at a young age, but if you haven’t been vaccinated, you should wait about a month after getting the shot before trying to become pregnant since the vaccine contains live viruses.
Shingles (Zoster/Varicella): Shingles, like chickenpox, is caused by the varicella virus. The vaccine against this disease also contains a live virus, making it unsafe for pregnant women. Additionally, not enough research has been done on the effects of this vaccine in pregnancy so physicians generally recommend pregnant women wait until after delivery to receive this shot.
Additional Tip: Though you can only control how you take care of your own body, it’s a good idea to make sure that the people you come in close contact with during your pregnancy are up-to-date on their shots to further protect yourself and your baby. Vaccines prevent horrible diseases from threatening you and your baby-to-be, so don’t take any risks when it comes to personal safety.