Are Vaccines Safe During Pregnancy?
Can I Get Vaccines While I'm Pregnant?
It's best to get vaccines before pregnancy when possible, but some can be given during a pregnancy. And there are a couple that pregnant women should get.
The flu vaccine is recommended for everyone, including pregnant women, during flu season. In fact, it's extra important for pregnant women because it helps curb flu-related problems that are more common during pregnancy. And the vaccine is safe — studies show no harmful effects to the fetus. It also helps protect a mother and her baby from the flu in the baby's first year of life.
The flu vaccine comes in two forms: the flu shot (injected with a needle) and the nasal spray (a mist sprayed into the nostrils). Pregnant women should only get the flu shot. It's made with a killed flu virus, so won't affect the fetus. The nasal spray contains a live weaker form of the virus and isn't safe for moms-to-be.
Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding can and should get a COVID-19 vaccine, including booster doses. The vaccine is safe for them — and, of course, getting sick with COVID-19 is not safe. Pregnant women who get COVID-19 are at higher risk for severe illness than women who aren't pregnant.
The Tdap vaccine (against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis) is recommended for all pregnant women in the second half of each pregnancy, no matter if they've gotten it before or when they last got it. This is due to a rise in whooping cough infections, which can be fatal in newborns who have not yet had their routine vaccinations.
In general, while it's best to wait until after a pregnancy for other vaccines, a few are considered safe. Your doctor may say it's OK to get a vaccine if:
- there's a good chance that you could be exposed to a particular disease or infection and the benefits of vaccinating you outweigh the potential risks
- an infection would pose a risk to you or your baby
- the vaccine is unlikely to cause harm
Other vaccines that are considered safe during pregnancy if truly necessary are:
- hepatitis B
What Are the Possible Risks?
Some vaccines should not be given during pregnancy, such as the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine (MMR), human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, and chickenpox (varicella) vaccine. That's because these are live vaccines, which means they contain a small amount of weakened live virus. There is a concern that the weak virus can cross the placenta and infect the fetus. Speak to your doctor if you may have been exposed to one of these infections, or if you learned that you were pregnant soon after getting one of these vaccines.
For the most part, though, researchers don't always know all the risks some vaccines may pose to a fetus. So, it's wise to wait to be vaccinated unless your doctor tells you otherwise. If your workplace requires certain vaccines, be sure to let them know you are pregnant and may need to wait. Also tell your doctor if you became pregnant within 4 weeks of getting a vaccine.