The best time to receive vaccinations is before you become pregnant according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) so discuss this possibility with your health care team if this pertains to you. Vaccinations will help safeguard your body from infection and this protection passes to your baby during pregnancy. You are encouraged to have a preconception exam to make sure you are up to date with your “adult” vaccines; bring a copy of your vaccination record with you. If you don’t have this record, a simple blood test will let your health care team know what vaccinations you need. If you aren’t current, ask your doctor for the requisite vaccines. Women are generally advised to wait one month following anyvaccinations to become pregnant. Your health care team may or may not advocate vaccinations during pregnancy.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the “risk to a developing fetus from vaccination of the mother during pregnancy is theoretical. No evidence exists of risk to the fetus from vaccinating pregnant women with inactivated virus or bacterial vaccines or toxoids. Live vaccines administered to a pregnant woman pose a theoretical risk to the fetus; therefore, live, attenuated virus and live bacterial vaccines generally are contraindicated during pregnancy.”
There are a few vaccines that are usually recommended before pregnancy. You may be familiar with three of the most common ones. The first is Influenza IIV (Inactivated). “Inactivated” means the vaccine does not contain a “live” virus. Vaccinations containing “live” viruses are contraindicated and not given to pregnant women per the CDC. The second recommended vaccine is Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis). This vaccine is not only recommended for you, but also relatives, close friends and caregivers who will spend time with your baby. The third is MMR (measles, mumps and rubella). Measles contracted during pregnancy may be dangerous to pregnant women and result in miscarriage.
Several vaccinations are given “if indicated” before or after pregnancy. One reason a vaccine may be indicated is because you have the potential for exposure to an infection. For example, your health care team may suggest you be vaccinated for rabies if you are a technician working in a veterinarian’s office and may possibly come in contact with a rabid animal. Another reason a vaccine may be indicated is that you have a medical condition that increases your risk for contracting an infection. One example is that you may have had your spleen removed (splenectomy). Your spleen helps your body fight infections so your health care team may recommend that you receive the Pneumococcal vaccine to prevent pneumonia. Some other vaccinations which may be given “if indicated” before or after pregnancy are Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Meningococcal Polysaccharide/Conjugate, HPV (human papillomanvirus), Varicella (chicken pox) and Tetanus/Diphtheria (TD). Tdap is the preferred vaccination of choice over TD as it also contains pertussis (whooping cough).
The CDC states that if you are pregnant and not up to date on your flu vaccine, you may be at a higher risk for developing flu and flu-related complications. They recommend that all women who are or will be pregnant during the influenza season be vaccinated with the Influenza (Inactivated) vaccine.
The National Institute of Health (NIH) acknowledges the concern among pregnant women receiving Influenza (Inactivated) in a “multi-dose” form as it contains a small amount of mercury (thimerosal), a preservative. Although this vaccine has not been shown to cause attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or autism, the fear among expecting moms still exists. Routine vaccinations are available without the preservative thimerosal added. It isimportant that all pregnant women know that they may request their vaccination be free of this preservative if they so wish.
Every woman must thoroughly research any medication or vaccination recommended to her during pregnancy. Any concerns or the possible side effects of any medication or vaccination should be discussed with her health care team. Please refer to the March of Dimes and the CDC for more information on vaccinations before, during and after pregnancy, Guidelines for Vaccinating Pregnant Women, and breastfeeding and vaccinations.