Pregnant women want to do everything they can to help their baby be healthy. One of the best things you can do is get your recommended vaccines while pregnant. Vaccinations help protect pregnant women from illnesses like the flu and they help support the immune system of their unborn children.
Pregnancy changes your immune system. It makes you more likely to get some illnesses and more likely to have severe symptoms. Having the flu during pregnancy can cause problems for your pregnancy, including affecting the growth of the baby, causing fetal distress, leading to an early delivery, and increasing the chance of a cesarean section. Anyone who is pregnant during flu season should get a flu shot as soon as they are available. Because we do not recommend live vaccines in pregnant women, we only use the flu shot, not the nasal flu mist.
The amazing thing about vaccinations during pregnancy is that there is evidence that the antibodies your body makes in response to the vaccine are transferred to your unborn child and stay with your baby to provide protection against disease for several months after delivery. It’s a really powerful way to keep your baby healthy during those early months when his immune system is immature.
Cases of pertussis, or whooping cough, are on the rise. Newborn babies are at highest risk of getting pertussis and having severe symptoms. Because of this, we recommend that all pregnant women receive the Tdap vaccine during their third trimester of each pregnancy. This vaccine protects mom from contracting pertussis if she is not already current on her immunizations. But even more importantly, it protects baby from contracting pertussis after birth, because mom’s antibodies cross the placenta and protect the baby in the critical few weeks after birth. That transfer of antibodies to baby is why we strongly recommend the vaccination during each pregnancy, no matter how far apart those pregnancies are. Dad, other family members and caregivers should also all be current on their pertussis immunizations since parents and caregivers are the most likely source of pertussis in a newborn.
Pregnant woman are often very cautious about taking medications or shots during pregnancy, often because they want to avoid anything that might harm the baby. It’s good to be informed about what’s safe for you and your baby during pregnancy. When it comes to vaccines, research consistently shows that there’s not just an absence of harm in receiving immunizations—there is clear evidence of the benefits. Both the Tdap and flu vaccines are well studied and have been proven to be safe and effective in pregnant women and their unborn babies. These shots cannot give you the flu or pertussis. There are some rare cases in which vaccinations are not recommended, for example, in women with an egg allergy or those prone to Guillian-Barre syndrome. All pregnant women should talk to a prenatal healthcare provider about vaccines. For almost all pregnant women, vaccines are safe, recommended, and a great opportunity to protect yourself and your baby.
Take the Next Steps:
- Get flu shots for yourself and your family at one of the U-M walk-in flu shot clinics or one of the public flu shot clinics.
- Review information about the Tdap vaccine from the CDC.
- Check out other resources and information for pregnant women from the University of Michigan Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospital birth center.
Michelle H. Moniz, MD, MSc, graduated from Washington University School of Medicine and completed her residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. She sees patients at the Brighton Health Center.
University of Michigan Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospital opened in December 2011, offering women a state-of-the-art place to welcome their babies to the world in the most caring and comfortable way possible. From private rooms to birthing tubs, each feature was designed around mom and baby’s every need. Learn more at www.UofMhealth.org/birthcenter.