The health of pregnant women has a great impact on their babies, so it’s common for medical professionals to mention that women can get vaccinations before, during, and after their pregnancies. In addition to providing women with a defense against serious diseases, vaccines can help give their babies some early protection as well.
Keeping an accurate vaccination record can help you and your healthcare professional determine which vaccines you are applicable for before, during, and after your pregnancy.
If your current healthcare provider does not have your vaccine record, you can ask your guardians for your school immunization records or contact the last location where you may have received a vaccination such as a pharmacy or health department.
Vaccines to Get Before Pregnancy
Before you plan a pregnancy, it is vital to make sure that your vaccination record is up to date. Protecting your health will protect the health of your child during pregnancy. Getting up to date on your vaccinations can help avoid serious preventable diseases such as rubella, which can cause issues during pregnancy that can lead to a miscarriage or serious birth defects.
The best defense against rubella is the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine. This vaccine also provides protection from measles and mumps. It is recommended for everybody to receive the two doses of the MMR vaccine for lifetime immunity. However, women can get the vaccine at least one full month before they get pregnant for the best protection for their child.
Note: If you are unsure whether or not you received the MMR vaccine, speak with your doctor or other healthcare provider.
Vaccines During Pregnancy
Pregnant women are highly recommended to receive a few different vaccines in order to best protect themselves and their babies. Vaccines can give babies boosted immunity during their first few months of life. This occurs because babies can get disease protection from their mom during pregnancy. However, this immunity will decrease as time passes.
Keep reading to learn more about the different types of vaccines available for women during pregnancy.
Whooping Cough (Tdap) Vaccine
Pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough, is a disease that can be harmful to anyone, but it is especially dangerous for newborns. Most deaths caused by whooping cough are among babies that are 2 months old or younger, while they are still too young to receive protection from their own vaccination.
Pregnant women are recommended to get a whooping cough vaccine, also known as Tdap, during each of pregnancy. This vaccine will create protective antibodies for women who may pass some of the antibodies to their child before birth. Babies will get some short-term defense against whooping cough through this method.
CDC Recommendation: Pregnant women can get a whooping cough vaccine as early as possible during the 27th through the 36th weeks of each pregnancy.
Getting a flu shot is good for everyone, but it is more important for pregnant women because they are more likely to fall severely ill from influenza and can possibly lead to hospitalization. This is possibly because pregnant women undergo many changes in their heart, lung, and immune functions during their pregnancy. In fact, the flu shot has been shown to reduce the risk of a flu-related acute respiratory infection by up to 50 percent.
Pregnant women are recommended to get the flu shot instead of the nasal spray flu vaccine. Getting a flu vaccine is one of the most important methods for people to protect themselves from the flu. For pregnant women, the flu shot can also provide protection for their baby for the first several months after their birth.
CDC Recommendation: Pregnant women are recommended to get the flu vaccine by the end of October for the best protection against influenza.
In certain circumstances women may require additional vaccinations before, during, or after their pregnancy. For instance, women who are travelling while pregnant can speak to their professional healthcare provider at least 4 to 6 weeks before they travel to discuss the need for additional vaccines.
Pregnant women can also talk to their doctors about getting tested for hepatitis B to discuss whether a vaccination is required. Additionally, pregnant women with a history of chronic liver disease may be recommended to get a hepatitis A vaccine.
Health Tip: Speak with your personal care provider for the best vaccination plan for you.
Vaccines After Childbirth
Some women may be recommended to receive additional vaccines immediately after giving birth. These are called postpartum vaccinations and they can protect new mothers from certain illnesses. These vaccinations are beneficial because some antibodies will be passed to the baby through breastmilk if the mother is able to breastfeed.
Women who did not receive certain vaccines before or during their pregnancy are highly recommended to get them after pregnancy. However, the protective antibodies from the vaccines will not be transferable to the baby if the mother did not get vaccinated until after birth. Generally, it takes 2 full weeks after receiving a vaccine for the body to develop antibodies.
Vaccines for Family and Caregivers
Babies have a sensitive immune system, so it is important to help form a circle of disease protection around them by having all family and caregivers updated on their vaccines. Anyone who is around the baby can get their whooping cough vaccine (DTaP for children and Tdap for teens and adults) and the flu shot during flu season. This circle of disease protection includes:
- Babysitters or nannies.
- Other caregivers for the baby.
Timing of Vaccines for Family and Caregivers
If any family member or caregivers will be near the baby, it’s probably best that they have their whooping cough and flu vaccines at least two weeks before meeting the baby. This allows the vaccine two weeks to develop antibodies in your body. If everyone is vaccinated, there would be no way to pass the diseases to the baby. The most common source for whooping cough or flu infections in young infants is from their siblings, parents, grandparents or caregivers.