We talk a mean talk about vaccines, but many adults aren’t even packing safe levels of vaccines anyways. So what’s most important when you’re growing another human being?
I’m just going to skip right over the whole should-we-or-should-we-not vaccination argument and assume that if you’re reading this, you have already made up your mind on the hot button issue and are looking to get vaccinated during your pregnancy.
Phew. Now with that out of the way, let’s get down to business.
First off, what are the “rules” about pregnancy vaccinations? The CDC states that the risk to the fetus from mom’s vaccines are “theoretical,” or, in other words, they can’t exactly study it and so far there is no evidence that vaccines harm a developing fetus. Fair enough. They do say, however, that live viruses are not recommended for pregnant women. In general, according to the CDC, “benefits of vaccinating pregnant women usually outweigh potential risks when the likelihood of disease exposure is high, when infection would pose a risk to the mother or fetus and when the vaccine is unlikely to cause harm.”
The CDC has a handy-dandy guide for what vaccines pregnant women should and shouldn’t get and it basically boils down to the following recommendations.
Recommended vaccines for pregnant women
- Hepatitis A vaccine (if not already received)
- Hepatitis B vaccine (if you’re at high risk for contracting the disease, such as having more than one sex partner in the last 6 months or have an active STD)
- Inactivated influenza vaccine during flu season, usually early October through late March
- DTaP (this vaccine includes pertussis, the whooping cough vaccine)
Vaccines pregnant women should not receive
- HPV vaccine
- MMR vaccine
- Live influenza vaccine
- Chickenpox vaccine
- Zoster vaccine
Other vaccines, such as those used for typhoid and anthrax, and other travel-specific conditions have specific recommendations that you should talk to your care provider about. Women who are breastfeeding should also not receive the smallpox vaccine.
Ideally, you should know what vaccines you are missing before you get pregnant so you can safely catch up on shots and boosters as needed without the risk of vaccines to your developing baby. Rubella is the hot-ticket item to check out, as the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine can’t be given during pregnancy, even though having rubella during your pregnancy can be very dangerous to your baby.
The DTaP vaccine will also generally be offered during your pregnancy and if you don’t get it during your prenatal visits, you usually have the opportunity to receive it once you deliver at the hospital. And if you’d rather not get it, you can decline it — although you might be asked to sign a waiver stating that you refuse the vaccine as standard hospital protocol.
On a last note, the CDC also recommends that basically everyone who will be coming into contact with your baby get the Tdap vaccine as well, as it offers protection from pertussis, a condition especially dangerous for babies who can’t get vaccinated against it.