Vaccines and pregnancy — what you need to know

Vaccines and pregnancy — what you need to know
If you’re planning a pregnancy, it’s important to ask your healthcare provider if you need vaccinations to protect yourself and your child and to discuss and understand any risks involved.
Written by Orchid Team 
Medically reviewed by Cristina Vidal, RN
  • Cristina Vidal, RN, is the IVF-Donor-Surrogate nurse coordinator at Stanford Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility with over 20 years of experience in the fertility and reproductive clinic.

What Should I Do First?

You’ll need your vaccination records – contact your previous healthcare provider to have these forwarded to your prenatal care specialist.

To check for immunity, your doctor may order blood tests to decide whether vaccination is required. Some vaccines can’t be given during pregnancy, including chickenpox (varicella) and MMR, so these should be scheduled before you get pregnant.

Are Vaccinations Safe?

The FDA and CDC are the governmental bodies that ensure safety compliance for vaccines. Before providing approval for any new vaccine, they order thorough studies and monitor the effectiveness of each new product and its safety.

All vaccinations in common use for childhood diseases such as measles, chickenpox, mumps, and rubella have been through developmental research trials as well as years, or even decades, of studies concerning their long-term safety. You can be reassured that these well-established vaccinations should only protect you and your child.

Do I Pass on My Immunities to My Child?

For some diseases, such as whooping cough, pregnant women can be vaccinated, and their immunity will be transmitted to their unborn child. For other vaccinations, such as Hep B, it is necessary to wait until the child is born and vaccinate the newborn.

Your OB/GYN doctor will be able to tell you which immunities will carry over from you to your child, and which will require vaccinations after birth for your baby.

How Quickly After Vaccination am I Protected?

It generally takes two weeks following vaccination to develop antibodies. Many childhood vaccinations are “one and done”, meaning that they do not require multiple applications. Hep B is one exception, which requires three doses for newborn babies and young infants.

Your health professional will advise on which vaccinations you should have prior to becoming pregnant.

Vaccines to Get Prior to Pregnancy

Live vaccines are contraindicated during pregnancy since they use attenuated live virus particulates. These vaccines must be given before pregnancy.With all of these shots, it’s recommended to wait at least four weeks after your last vaccination before trying to get pregnant.

If you have not been vaccinated and get pregnant, don’t worry. You and your child can be given them after you give birth, providing equivalent protection.

Here are the vaccinations to get prior to pregnancy:

Rubella – requires a single dose.

Congenital Rubella Syndrome, which is a condition that a baby gets while in the uterus, can be transmitted to the baby by an infected mother. Risks include severe birth defects such as cataracts, deafness, low birth weight, heart defects, damage to the spleen and liver, intellectual disabilities, glaucoma, brain damage, and others. There is also an increased risk of miscarriage and stillbirth.

Measles – also requires a single dose.

Getting measles during pregnancy can cause miscarriage, premature birth, low birth weight, and stillbirth.

MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) – this requires a single dose and provides combined immunity against all three diseases.

Varicella (Chickenpox) - two doses, at least 4 weeks apart

Contracting varicella in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy can cause birth defects. This is known as congenital varicella syndrome. It can cause malformation of the baby’s limbs, muscles and bones, as well as blindness, seizures, intellectual disabilities, and other defects.

Recommended Vaccines During Pregnancy

The following vaccinations are recommended as safe to take during pregnancy. These vaccines are termed “inactive” because they are made from dead versions of the germs they target.

This type contrasts with activated vaccines, where you receive a low dose of the disease itself, and your antibodies get to work on the living material. This kind can cause symptoms similar in character but much less serious than those of the full-blown disease. The MMR injection you receive in childhood is an example of an activated vaccine.

Vaccinations for During Pregnancy:

Whooping Cough (Tdap)— 1 dose each pregnancy

Whooping cough, or pertussis, can be life-threatening for newborns if they lack vaccine protection. Symptoms can include an inability to cough normally, shortness of breath and cyanosis (blueing of the kin or lips indicating poor circulation or deoxygenated blood).

Vaccination period: at 27-36 weeks for each pregnancy.

Flu - 1 dose each pregnancy

Pregnant women experience changes in their immune, respiratory, and cardiovascular systems. This renders them more susceptible to catching influenza and more likely to have severe symptoms. It is recommended to get a flu shot in order to protect both mother and baby for the first few months of pregnancy.

Vaccination period: first or second trimesters

Circumstantial Vaccinations

Your doctor may recommend other vaccines before, during or after pregnancy, dependant on your particular circumstances (for example, whether you intend to travel)

These may include: Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Meningococcal vaccine.

What About the Covid-19 Vaccines?

The three coronavirus shots cleared for American use by the CDC and FDA are the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use a genetic technology, whereby a strand of mRNA acts as an instruction to the body to produce antibodies. They have been shown to be up to 95% effective.

The J&J Vaccine performs a similar trick with a strand of DNA, helping your body mount an effective defense against the virus.

The necessary dosage is two for Pfizer and Moderna, and one for the J&J vaccine. These vaccinations have been declared safe to take either before or during pregnancy.

Pregnancy is a significant risk factor for Covid-19, so vaccinations are recommended. Side effects during pregnancy are not expected and have not been widely reported.

If you are planning on starting or growing your family, check out our expert guides on all things genetics and fertility. Today, advanced genetic screening is now available to couples who want their child to have the best shot of a healthy life. Explore how Orchid helps you conceive with confidence.
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