Having a baby is one of the biggest choices a woman can make – and keeping a baby healthy during pregnancy depends on many other important decisions. Mothers pass their immunity onto their babies, which is why immunizations are critical to keep a baby safe during pregnancy and into the first few months of a newborn’s life – until he is old enough to get his own vaccines.
Before getting pregnant
Check with your physician to ensure that all your vaccines are up to date. The CDC recommends that live vaccines are administered at least one month prior to getting pregnant. You can receive inactivated (killed virus) vaccines closer to the date of conception or during pregnancy.
While you’re pregnant
Here are some vaccines that you should get – and a few you should avoid:
- Flu vaccine
It’s not only safe, but it’s also imperative to get an inactivated flu shot. Pregnant women have a harder time fighting infections and, as such, they are much more likely to end up hospitalized because of the flu.
- Tdap vaccine
Get the tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis (Tdap) vaccine during each pregnancy, ideally between weeks 27 and 36. This will help protect your baby from pertussis, otherwise known as whopping cough. After getting the Tdap vaccine, your body will produce disease-fighting antibodies, some of which will be passed along to your baby in the womb. Such antibodies offer short-term protection against whopping cough for your newborn until he can start getting the vaccine at 2 months. Between 2000 and 2012, more than 250 people in the U.S. died of whooping cough, 87 percent of whom were younger than 3 months.
- Travel vaccines
Vaccines can prevent many diseases that are not prevalent in the U.S. If you are planning to visit another country, speak with a doctor about necessary travel vaccines and medications. For more info, read the CDC’s travel site.
- Vaccines to avoid
If you’re pregnant, don’t get the HPV (human papillomavirus), MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) or varicella (chicken pox) vaccines. You should also wait to get hepatitis A or B, meningococcal or pneumococcal vaccines.
Also, pregnancy is a great time to read up on the immunizations your baby will need in the coming months and years. Here’s a handy schedule for children up to age six. To customize an immunization schedule for your child, enter her birthday into this tool.
After giving birth
As a new mom, you can still get routine vaccines even while breastfeeding. Get the Tdap vaccine soon after delivery if you have not received it. Make sure you’re vaccinated against pertussis, because it reduces the risk for your infant, too. If you are not immune to measles, mumps and rubella, as well as chicken pox, get vaccinated before leaving the hospital. Speak with your OB-GYN if you have questions about immunizations.