Maternal immunization protects both the mother and fetus from the dangers of certain infections. It can also provide the infant protection against infections acquired after birth until his/her immune system is fully functioning. Most vaccines are safe in pregnancy as long as they do not contain a live virus. The following are the vaccines that are recommended by the CDC for every pregnant woman as well as any individual who will be spending extended periods of time around the baby. Our office offers the Influenza and TDaP vaccines.
Influenza (flu vaccine). There is a tenfold increased risk of hospitalization for a pregnant woman who contracts influenza during her pregnancy and a fourfold increased risk of death. It is a safe vaccine and also imparts influenza immunity to the baby if you are breastfeeding. This vaccine is recommended between September and March and can be given in any of the three trimesters.
Some people should not be vaccinated. Contraindications include severe allergy to eggs (vaccine influenza is grown in hens’ eggs), or any other vaccine component (i.e., thimerosal, a mercury-containing organic compound widely used as a preservative in many biological and pharmaceutical products, including certain vaccines and contact lens solutions), and having a moderate or severe illness with fever at time of vaccination (not including minor illness). Note that if your immune system is compromised by illness at the time of vaccination your body may not be able to respond as it should to build up antibodies for protection against the flu.
The most common side effect of the flu shot is soreness at the injection site, which can last up to two days but does not usually affect an individual’s ability to perform normal daily activities. Some people, usually children and others who have not been exposed to the influenza viruses before, may notice “mild” flu-like symptoms, such as fever, malaise, and muscle weakness, after receiving a flu shot. Symptoms usually start six to 12 hours after vaccination and can last up to two days. Less common side effects include allergic reactions and Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS). Life-threatening allergic reactions, which usually occur immediately, are very rare but can be possible in individuals allergic to any vaccine component. The risk is estimated to be very low at one to two cases per million vaccinated, which is much less than the risk of getting the flu.
TDaP (Tetanus, Diphtheria and Pertussis) Vaccine: The CDC is now recommending this vaccine for all pregnant women during each pregnancy regardless of the timing of the last booster. Rising rates of whooping cough and diphtheria, especially in the Midwest, have resulted in increase in hospitalizations and death for infants in the first two months of life. This vaccine is administered in the third trimester, typically around 28 weeks of pregnancy, to maximize the advantage of the vaccine to both the mother and the baby.
What are the side effects?
- Pain, redness or swelling, mild fever of at least 100.4°F, headache, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach ache
- Chills, body aches, sore joints, rash (rare)
- A severe allergic reaction could occur after any vaccine. They are estimated to occur less than once in a million doses
Other vaccines safe in pregnancy: Hepatitis A and B, Yellow Fever (only if traveling to a very high risk area), Typhoid (the inactive type), Tuberculosis
Vaccines to avoid in pregnancy: Measles/Mumps/Rubella (MMR), Varicella (chicken pox), HPV, Zoster