Vaccines During Pregnancy

Influenza (Flu) Vaccine

The flu season is here. If you are pregnant, getting the flu can cause serious problems for you. Even if you are healthy, changes in your immune, heart, and lung functions during pregnancy make you more likely to become very sick from the flu. Pregnant people who get the flu are at higher risk of being hospitalized, and even dying, than non-pregnant people.

If you are pregnant and become very sick from the flu, it can also be very dangerous to your baby. It increases the chance for complications such as premature labor and delivery, and birth defects.

The CDC and pregnancy experts agree that the best way to protect both yourself and your baby from the flu and its serious complications is to get the flu shot – during any trimester. When you get your flu shot during pregnancy, your body starts to make antibodies that help protect you against the flu. Some of these antibodies are also passed on to your developing baby to help protect them from flu for several months. This is very important since they can’t start getting their own flu vaccine until they are 6 months old.

The flu vaccine recommendation is strongly supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG); the American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM); the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP); and the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN).

  • Getting a flu shot reduces a pregnant woman’s risk of being hospitalized with flu by an average of 40%.
  • Getting a flu shot reduces a pregnant woman’s risk of flu-related acute respiratory infection by up to one-half.
  • Getting a flu shot during pregnancy reduces the risk of pregnancy loss and reduced birthweight. Learn more.
  • Getting a flu shot during pregnancy lowers the baby’s risk (in babies less than 6 months old) of flu-related hospitalization by an average of 72%.
  • Getting a flu shot during pregnancy helps protect the baby from flu illness for the first several months after birth, when they are too young to get their own flu vaccine.

The timing of flu seasons vary from season to season, but the CDC recommends getting vaccinated by the end of October, if possible. Getting your vaccine at the beginning of the flu season helps to protect you and your baby before flu begins spreading in your community. It takes approximately 2 weeks after vaccination for protection to start.

If you missed getting the flu shot while you were pregnant, you should get it before leaving the hospital to help protect yourself from getting sick with flu and to pass some protection to your baby if you are breastfeeding. However, you won’t get protective antibodies right away if you wait to get vaccinated because it takes about 2 weeks after vaccination before your body develops antibodies against flu.

To help provide your baby with additional protection against flu, ask your friends, family members (children, teens and adults), and other caregivers to make sure they get their flu vaccination at least two weeks before meeting your new baby.

Experts believe flu and COVID-19 will both be spreading this fall and winter. You can get both vaccines at the same time.

View/download VYF’s handout – Flu Vaccination During Pregnancy

Learn more about this flu season. 

Flu Shot Safety

The flu shot is safe – during any trimester – for both you and your baby. You cannot get the flu from the flu shot. Flu shots have been safely given to millions of pregnant women over many years.

Look at the many studies that have been done to make sure flu vaccines are safe for both pregnant women and their babies.

It is also safe for you to get the flu vaccine while breastfeeding. Getting vaccinated reduces your risk of getting sick and passing the flu to your baby. Breastfeeding also helps to protect your baby because breast milk passes your antibodies to your baby, and these antibodies help your infant fight off infection.

If You are Pregnant and Have Flu Symptoms

If you get flu symptoms while pregnant (even if you had a flu shot), call your healthcare provider right away. They might prescribe you antivirals to help treat your illness and lessen the chance that you get severe complications. Antiviral medications work best when taken within 48 hours of the start of flu symptoms.

Tdap (Tetanus, Diphtheria and Pertussis) Vaccine

Whooping cough (also known as pertussis) is a very contagious disease that still occurs very often in the United States. Whooping cough can cause serious illness in people of all ages, but it is particularly dangerous for babies.

About 7 in 10 deaths from whooping cough are among babies younger than 2 months old. These babies are too young to be protected by their own vaccinations.

About half of babies younger than one-year old who have whooping cough end up in the hospital. The younger the baby is when they get whooping cough, the more likely they will need to be treated in a hospital.

Whooping cough can cause uncontrollable, violent coughing that often makes it hard to breathe. After coughing, a person with whooping cough often needs to take deep breaths, which results in a “whooping” sound. Sometimes it is hard to know if your child has whooping cough because some babies with the disease don’t cough at all. Instead, they stop breathing and turn blue. Hear how whooping cough sounds in a child.

To best protect both you and your baby from whooping cough, the CDC recommends that you receive a Tdap vaccine during your 27th through 36th week (in the 3rd trimester) of each pregnancy, preferably during the earlier part of this time period. This recommendation is also strongly supported by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG); the American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM); the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP); the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP); and the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN).  View the Immunization for Pregnant Women: A Call to Action.

If you are unable to get the Tdap vaccination while pregnant, get it immediately after giving birth. Getting the Tdap shot will help protect you from getting sick and you can pass some antibodies against whooping cough to your baby if you are breastfeeding. However, you will not get protective antibodies immediately if you wait to get vaccinated until after your baby is born. This is because it takes about 2 weeks after getting the Tdap vaccine before your body develops antibodies.

People with whooping cough usually spread the disease by coughing or sneezing. Parents, older siblings, and other family members/caregivers can give whooping cough to babies without even knowing that they have the disease.

To help provide your baby with additional protection against whooping cough, ask your friends, family members (children, teens and adults), and caregivers to make sure they are up to date on their whooping cough vaccination (DTaP for children; Tdap for preteens, teens and adults), at least two weeks before meeting your new baby.

Tdap Vaccine Safety

The Tdap vaccine is safe for both you and your baby. You cannot get whooping cough (pertussis) from the Tdap shot. 

See the research that has been done to make sure the Tdap vaccine during pregnancy is safe and effective for women and their babies.

Watch this real-life story told by a mom who lost her healthy baby girl Callie to whooping cough. We are forever grateful to Katie for sharing her stories and advocating for Tdap vaccination during pregnancy, which was not yet available to her at the time of her loss.

Getting flu and Tdap vaccines during your pregnancy is very important and will provide your baby with early protection against flu and whooping cough. However, the antibodies you pass to your baby will only give them short-term protection. That’s why it is also very important for your baby to get their own vaccinations on time.

COVID-19 Vaccines

Pregnant and recently pregnant people – including those who are breastfeeding – have a higher risk for more severe illness from COVID-19 than nonpregnant people. Based on the latest data, the CDC and other pregnancy experts STRONGLY RECOMMEND pregnant, recently pregnant and breastfeeding individuals get vaccinated against COVID-19. (Experts agree that the benefits of vaccination while pregnant outweigh the risks.)

They also recommend COVID-19 vaccination to anyone who is lactating or trying to become pregnant. There is no evidence showing that COVID-19 vaccines cause females or males to become infertile. For answers to your COVID-19 vaccine questions, visit VYF’s Questions and Answers About COVID-19 Vaccines.

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