Vaccines and Pregnancy: 8 Things You Need to Know
Did you know a baby can get some disease protection from the mom during pregnancy? Getting flu, Tdap (tetanus, diptheria, and pertussis), and COVID-19 vaccines while you’re pregnant helps your body create protective antibodies (proteins produced by the body to fight off diseases), and you can pass on some of those antibodies to your baby. These antibodies can protect your baby from those diseases during the first few months of life.
CDC and a panel of experts who make vaccine recommendations have concluded that flu, Tdap, and COVID-19 vaccines are safe for pregnant women and their babies. These experts carefully reviewed the available safety data before recommending any vaccines during pregnancy.
Vaccines, like medicine, can have some side effects. But most people who get vaccinated have mild or no side effects. CDC continually monitors vaccine safety, and the most common side effects may include fever, tiredness, and body aches, as well as redness, swelling, and tenderness at the site where the shot was given.
You’ll need a Tdap vaccine during the 27th through 36th week of each pregnancy, preferably during the earlier part of this time period. Tdap helps protect against whooping cough (pertussis), which can be life-threatening for newborns.
About half of babies younger than 1 year old who get whooping cough need treatment in the hospital. The younger a baby is when they get whooping cough, the more likely the baby will need to be treated in a hospital. While some babies cough a lot, other babies with whooping cough don’t cough at all. Instead, it can cause them to stop breathing and turn blue. Siblings, parents, or caregivers who don’t know they have whooping cough can infect babies since the disease often causes mild symptoms in older children and adults.
Changes in your immune, heart, and lung functions during pregnancy make you more likely to get seriously ill from flu. Getting sick with flu when pregnant can put you at a higher risk of hospitalization and pregnancy complications, such as preterm labor and preterm birth. Flu may also be dangerous for your developing baby. Fever, a common flu symptom, may be associated with neural tube defects and other adverse outcomes.
Additionally, babies are more likely to get very sick from flu. When you get a flu vaccine during pregnancy, you pass antibodies along to your baby that can help protect them from flu in the first few months after they’re born, when they are too young to be vaccinated themselves.
Get a flu shot if you are pregnant during flu season—it’s the best way to protect yourself and your baby from flu. Flu vaccine is safe during pregnancy and can be given during any trimester.
If you are pregnant or were recently pregnant, you are more likely to get very sick from COVID-19 than people who are not pregnant. Additionally, if you have COVID-19 during pregnancy, you are more likely to have complications that can affect your pregnancy and developing baby.
COVID-19 vaccination is recommended for people who are pregnant, breastfeeding, trying to get pregnant now, or might become pregnant in the future. Evidence shows that COVID-19 vaccination before and during pregnancy is safe and effective and suggests that the benefits of vaccination outweigh any known or potential risks. New data show that vaccination during pregnancy can help protect babies younger than 6 months old from hospitalization due to COVID-19.
People who are pregnant should stay up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines, including getting a COVID-19 booster shot when it’s time to get one.
You know all about timing. Week after week, you are tracking your baby’s growth and development and counting down the days until you meet your little one! When it comes to vaccines, timing is also important.
- Flu seasons vary in their timing from season to season, but CDC recommends getting your flu vaccine by the end of October, regardless of where you are in your pregnancy. This timing helps ensure that you are protected before flu activity begins to increase.
- Instead of during a specific time of year, CDC recommends you get your Tdap vaccine in your third trimester. Getting Tdap between the 27th and 36th week, preferably during the earlier part of this time period, lets you pass the greatest amount of protective antibodies to your baby before birth. This will help keep your baby protected during their first few months of life when they are most vulnerable to serious disease and complications.
- COVID-19 vaccination is recommended at any point in pregnancy, as well as booster doses for those eligible.
Newborns do not yet have fully developed immune systems, making them particularly vulnerable to infections. Older kids and adults can spread viruses to babies, even if they don’t feel very sick. Because of this, anyone who is around babies should be up to date on all routine vaccines, including Tdap, flu, and COVID-19 vaccination. This includes parents, eligible siblings, and any other caregivers, like grandparents, nannies, or babysitters. Anyone who needs vaccines should get them at least two weeks before meeting the baby because it takes about two weeks to develop antibodies after vaccination.
The amount of antibodies you have in your body after getting vaccinated decreases over time. When you get a vaccine during one pregnancy, your antibody levels may not stay high enough to provide enough protection for future pregnancies, even if your babies are close in age. So, make sure you give baby number 2 (and 3 and 4…) the greatest amount of protective antibodies and the best disease protection possible by getting your whooping cough vaccine each time you are pregnant. You should also get a flu shot every flu season.