Vaccines are an important part of a healthy pregnancy. Pregnancy hormones change your body’s immune system and can make you more susceptible to infections such as colds and flu. That’s why doctors recommend a flu shot during pregnancy. Obstetricians also recommend the whooping cough vaccine during pregnancy to protect your newborn from this life-threatening condition.
Here’s what you need to know about vaccines and pregnancy—including recommended shots and others that you might need before, during and after pregnancy.
Flu shots in pregnancy.
It’s especially important to get a flu shot during pregnancy because pregnant women that get the flu can become extremely sick. According to the CDC, pregnant women are more likely to get severely ill with the flu, possibly because pregnancy hormones change the way the immune system, heart and lungs function during pregnancy.
Complications from having the flu while you’re pregnant can include:
- Respiratory issues
- Brain abnormalities
Flu may also be harmful for your growing baby. Fever, a common flu symptom, may be associated with neural tube defects and other serious conditions. When you get a flu shot during pregnancy, you pass along antibodies to your baby, which can help protect your newborn after birth.
Whooping cough vaccine during pregnancy.
The Tdap vaccine for whooping cough is also strongly encouraged for pregnant women. This shot protects newborn babies before they can get their own vaccine at 2 months of age. Whooping cough (pertussis) can be life threatening for infants; about 7 out of 10 whooping cough deaths are among babies less than 2 months old.
The CDC recommends getting the shot in your third trimester, preferably toward the beginning.
MMR vaccine before getting pregnant.
The MMR vaccine protects against measles, mumps and rubella. Rubella is a contagious disease that can cause a miscarriage or serious birth defects. If you’re not sure whether you had the vaccine, your OB can do a pre-pregnancy blood test to see if you have the antibodies that make you immune. If not, the CDC recommends that you avoid getting pregnant for one month after receiving the MMR vaccine and your immunity is confirmed by a blood test.
Additional vaccines to ask your doctor about.
You may need other vaccines before, during or after pregnancy. This depends on a variety of factors, including your vaccination and health history, job, travel plans and more.
Vaccines and testing you may want to ask your doctor about include:
- Hepatitis A if you have a history of chronic liver disease
- Hepatitis B to avoid passing it on to your baby during delivery
- Travel vaccines and special precautions if you’re planning international travel
- Recommended vaccines that you didn’t get during pregnancy