Vaccines During Pregnancy

By Jennifer Nixon, MD

female obgyn doctor explaining the list of recommended vaccines for adults to female patient
Female doctor explaining vaccines to her female patient

August is National Immunization Awareness Month, meant to highlight the important of vaccinations for people of all ages. During pregnancy, it is especially important for women to receive certain vaccinations. Mothers develop antibodies in response to vaccines that help protect herself and her baby from serious diseases.

According to the CDC, “Benefits of vaccinating pregnant women usually outweigh potential risks when the likelihood of disease exposure is high, when infection would pose a risk to the mother or fetus, and when the vaccine is unlikely to cause harm.”i

The CDC recommends that pregnant women get two vaccines during every pregnancy: the inactivated flu vaccine (flu shot) and the Tdap vaccine.

Inactivated flu vaccine – The flu is more likely to cause severe illness in pregnant women due to a suppressed immune system. It may also be harmful to the developing baby. Getting the flu shot (inactivated influenza vaccine) during pregnancy is one of the best ways to protect mom and baby from flu-related complications. It is recommended that pregnant women get vaccinated early in flu season, by the end of October.

Tdap vaccine – Pregnant women should receive the Tdap vaccine during each pregnancy, ideally between 27 and 36 weeks to protect mom and baby from pertussis, also known as whooping cough. Pertussis can affect people of all ages, but it can be very serious or life-threatening for newborns or babies younger than one year.

All adults should get a Tdap booster every 10 years. It can be given before the 10-year mark during pregnancy.

COVID-19 – The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that pregnant women be vaccinated against COVID-19. Women’s Care patients should consult with your ob-gyn provider to determine the right choice for you.

There are additional vaccines that may be recommended for pregnant women based on special circumstances or medical conditions when the benefits may outweigh the risks.

MMR – The measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine should be given a month or more before pregnancy. If you are pregnant and have not received the MMR vaccine, talk to your provider to help determine if you should receive the inactivated MMR vaccine.

Pneumococcal pneumonia – This is ideally given prior to conception, however if a pregnant woman is at high risk for pneumococcal pneumonia, it may be recommended to be vaccinated during pregnancy.

Haemophilus influenzae – High-risk women with certain medical conditions, for example sickle cell anemia, leukemia or HIV, may be recommended to receive the Hib vaccine.

Travel vaccines – People often forget there may be vaccines that are recommended when traveling to certain areas of the world, for instance to protect from yellow fever, dengue fever or mosquito-borne diseases.

If you are pregnant, or planning to become pregnant, please be sure to discuss with your Women’s Care provider getting up to date on your recommended vaccines.

i CDC. General recommendations on immunization: recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). MMWR 2011; 60 (No. 2): 26.