Vaccines During Pregnancy

Reviewed by James Brann, MD
Vaccines are an important part of staying healthy. Not only do they help you avoid serious and even dangerous infections, but also they can actually help you fight infections and the germs that cause them. You may hear them referred to as immunizations or vaccinations in the form of a shot, nose spray or even an oral medication.
Vaccines are important for everyone, but especially for pregnant women. In fact, if you’re already pregnant, or hope to get pregnant, not only will vaccines help you fight off infections but they can help your baby out too.

Planning for pregnancy with vaccines

This brings us to the question, what do I need to know if I’m planning to get pregnant in the near future? If you find yourself in this category, make sure you’re up to date with all of your vaccinations. Check with your doctor to see what vaccines he or she recommends. If you don’t have a good record of your vaccination history, or can’t remember, your nurse or doctor may want to do a blood check to find out.

Some of the most important vaccines a soon-to-be pregnant woman needs include:
  • Mumps
  • Chickenpox
  • Measles
  • Rubella

It’s important that these four make the list of vaccinations before you get pregnant because you cannot get them once you are. The problems that develop from these infections are serious not only for you but for your unborn child. They may include:

  • Early delivery
  • Infection spreading to your baby
  • Birth defects
  • A Miscarriage

If you are missing the vaccinations for chickenpox, mumps, measles or rubella, make sure you get them well before getting pregnant. At least a month is advisable. If you’ve already had chickenpox in the past, you don’t need to get the vaccine, though. You can’t get it again.

There’s also one more vaccination that should be added to the list. Pregnant women also can’t get the HPV vaccine so ask your doctor about it before you either get pregnant or start planning.

Safe vaccinations during pregnancy

This brings us to the list of which vaccines are safe for pregnant women. There are several vaccines recommended to help keep pregnant women healthy during all three trimesters.
  • Influenza The flu vaccine is one of the big ones. Not only should all adults get the flu vaccine each year, but it’s even more important for pregnant women. If you’re pregnant you run a greater risk of becoming much more ill than others with the flu. Getting the flu vaccine can help you from getting sick, and help your unborn child thrive by not getting the flu while they are still developing.
  • Tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis In the case of tetanus, it makes your muscles work abnormally. Diphtheria may cause breathing problems due to a thick covering in the back part of your throat. Pertussis is probably best known by its other name, “whooping cough”. Just as the name implies, it leads to a severe cough. It’s recommended that every pregnant woman get a tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis vaccine between 27 and 36 weeks into their pregnancy. This rings true even if you’ve had the vaccine before.
  • Other vaccines There are other vaccines out there that may also apply to you if you have plans to travel outside of the country or have other medical conditions. This is why it’s best to talk to your doctor.
The doses you need depend on the vaccine. While some vaccines only require one dose, others may require at least two doses to do the job effectively. Keep in mind, though, you do need to plan. It usually takes a few weeks for most vaccines to work effectively.

Side effects

Some people never have to deal with side effects regarding vaccines, while others do. Here are a few things to watch out for:
  • Mild fever
  • Mild rash
  • Mild swelling, soreness, redness at location of shot
  • Body aches or headache

These are all fairly mild, but there are some more serious side effects to be mindful of. While rare, severe allergic reactions do happen. Talk to your nurse or doctor so you know what side effects to watch for. If you do develop any problems, be sure and let your doctor know. Because some vaccines include eggs, it is important to make sure your doctor knows if you have an egg allergy.
If you are already pregnant and never got the chickenpox vaccine, rubella, mumps or measles vaccines, and you have never had the infections, you need to make sure you avoid people who do have the infections. As well, if someone you’re close to develops chickenpox, contact your doctor right away. They may want to give you some medicine that helps reduce the chance you’ll come down with it too.

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