Maternal Vaccines: Part of a Healthy Pregnancy
Vaccines help protect you and your baby against serious diseases. You probably know that when you are pregnant, you share everything with your baby. That means when you get vaccines, you aren’t just protecting yourself—you are giving your baby some early protection too. CDC recommends you get a whooping cough and flu vaccine during each pregnancy to help protect yourself and your baby.
CDC has guidelines for the vaccines you need before, during, and after pregnancy. Some vaccines, such as the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine, should be given a month or more before pregnancy. You should get the Tdap vaccine (to help protect against whooping cough), during your pregnancy. Other vaccines, like the flu shot, can be given before or during pregnancy, depending on whether or not it is flu season when you’re pregnant. It is safe for you to receive vaccines right after giving birth, even while you are breastfeeding. Be sure to discuss each vaccine with your healthcare professional before getting vaccinated.
Whooping cough (Pertussis): Whooping cough can be serious for anyone, but for your newborn, it can be life-threatening. Up to 20 babies die each year in the United States due to whooping cough. About half of babies younger than 1 year old who get whooping cough need treatment in the hospital. The younger the baby is when he or she gets whooping cough, the more likely he or she will need to be treated in a hospital. It may be hard for you to know if your baby has whooping cough because many babies with this disease don’t cough at all. Instead, it can cause them to stop breathing and turn blue.
When you get the whooping cough vaccine during your pregnancy, your body will create protective antibodies and pass some of them to your baby before birth. These antibodies will provide your baby some short-term, early protection against whooping cough. Learn more by visiting CDC’s Pregnancy and Whooping Cough website.
Flu: Changes in your immune, heart, and lung functions during pregnancy make you more likely to get seriously ill from the flu. Catching the flu also increases your chances for serious problems for your developing baby, including premature labor and delivery. Get the flu shot if you are pregnant during flu season—it’s the best way to protect yourself and your baby for several months after birth from flu-related complications.
Flu seasons vary in their timing from season to season, but CDC recommends getting vaccinated by the end of October, if possible. This timing helps protect you before flu activity begins to increase. Visit CDC’s Pregnant Women & Influenza (Flu) website for more information.
Vaccines for Travel: If you are pregnant and planning international travel, you should talk to your doctor at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to discuss any special precautions or vaccines that you may need. For more information, visit CDC’s Traveler’s Health website.
Hepatitis B: A baby whose mother has hepatitis B is at highest risk for becoming infected with hepatitis B during delivery. Talk to your healthcare professional about getting tested for hepatitis B and whether or not you should get vaccinated. For more information, see CDC’s answers to frequently asked questions on Pregnancy and Hepatitis B.
Additional Vaccines: Some women may need other vaccines before, during, or after they become pregnant. For example, if you have a history of chronic liver disease, your doctor may recommend the hepatitis A vaccine. If you work in a lab, or if you are traveling to a country where you may be exposed to meningococcal disease, your doctor may recommend the meningococcal vaccine. Take the Adult Vaccine Quiz for a customized printout of recommended vaccines that you can take to your next medical appointment.
For Women Planning a Pregnancy
Even before becoming pregnant, make sure you are up to date on all your vaccines. This will help protect you and your child from serious diseases. For example, rubella is a contagious disease that can be very dangerous if you get it while you are pregnant. In fact, it can cause a miscarriage or serious birth defects. The best protection against rubella is MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine, but if you aren’t up to date, you’ll need it before you get pregnant. Make sure you have a pre-pregnancy blood test to see if you are immune to the disease. Most women were vaccinated as children with the MMR vaccine, but you should confirm this with your doctor. If you need to get vaccinated for rubella, you should avoid becoming pregnant until one month after receiving the MMR vaccine and, ideally, not until your immunity is confirmed by a blood test. Take the Adult Vaccine Quiz to find out what vaccines you may need before becoming pregnant.
Did you know that your baby gets disease immunity (protection) from you during pregnancy? This immunity will protect your baby from some diseases during the first few months of life, but immunity decreases over time. Click the tabs in the section on Vaccines During Pregnancy to learn which vaccines are recommended during pregnancy and start planning ahead.
Your Vaccination History
It’s important for you to keep an accurate record of your vaccinations. Sharing this information with your pre-conception and prenatal healthcare professional will help determine which vaccines you’ll need during pregnancy. If you or your doctor does not have a current record of your vaccinations, you can:
- Ask your parents or other caregivers if they still have your school immunization records. Ask them which childhood illnesses you’ve already had because illnesses in childhood can sometimes provide immunity in adulthood.
- Contact your previous healthcare providers or other locations where you may have received vaccinations (e.g., the health department, your workplace, or local pharmacies).
For more information on finding your vaccination records, see CDC’s web page on Vaccination Records. Even without these records, your healthcare professional can still protect your health and that of your developing baby by recommending the vaccines appropriate for you.
Keep Protecting Your Baby After Birth
Your ob-gyn or midwife may recommend you receive some vaccines right after giving birth. Postpartum vaccination will help protect you from getting sick and you will pass some antibodies to your baby through your breastmilk. Vaccination after pregnancy is especially important if you did not receive certain vaccines before or during your pregnancy.
Your baby will also start to get his or her own vaccines to protect against serious childhood diseases. Learn about the vaccines that your baby needs in order to stay protected against potentially harmful diseases by visiting CDC’s Parents Home page on vaccine information.
- What You Need to Know about Pregnancy and Vaccines [2 pages]
- Whooping Cough Vaccine (Tdap): Information for Pregnant Women
Pregnancy and Hepatitis B [2 pages]
For women who test positive for the hepatitis B virus (HBV) during pregnancy
- Vaccination and Pregnancy Resources, journal articles, more sources, etc., from Immunization Action Coalition
- Video: “Vaccines and Your Baby” (1:15 min)
Vaccine Education Center, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, November 2002
Also available on YouTube in 14 segments, including Can babies handle vaccines so young?(1:53 min.)
- FDA Pregnancy Registry A pregnancy exposure registry is a study that collects health information from women who take medicines or vaccines when they are pregnant.
- Page last reviewed: August 5, 2016
- Page last updated: August 5, 2016
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