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Frequently Asked Questions for Patients Concerning Vaccine Safety

How does getting vaccinated during pregnancy protect my unborn baby?

Newborns cannot receive many vaccines until 2-6 months of age. Some of the protection from the vaccines that you get is transferred to your baby during pregnancy. This helps protect your baby from illness during the first months of life.

How do I know what vaccines I need?

Discuss the vaccines that you have had with your health care provider. Your health care provider will recommend the vaccines you need based on your medical history and lifestyle. If you do not receive recommended vaccines during pregnancy, you should get them immediately after your baby is born.

Are vaccines safe for me? Are vaccines safe for my baby?

Vaccination is one of the most important things that you can do for yourself and your baby. Vaccines help protect you and your baby from diseases that you both are at risk of and can make you both seriously ill. Vaccination is safe for you and your baby. For example, flu vaccines have been given safely to millions of pregnant women for more than 50 years.

I have heard that some vaccines contain mercury. Is getting these vaccines during pregnancy safe for my baby?

Thimerosal, a type of mercury, has not been shown to be harmful to pregnant women or unborn babies, and it does not cause autism. The benefits of preventing life-threatening illnesses in a mother and child far outweigh any potential risks of the vaccine.

Flu Shot for Pregnant Patients

I am pregnant. Is it recommended to receive the inactivated influenza vaccine (flu shot)?

Yes. Flu shots are an effective and safe way to protect you and your baby from serious illness and complications of the flu. The flu shot given during pregnancy helps protect infants younger than 6 months who are too young to be vaccinated and have no other way of receiving influenza antibodies. The flu shot has been given to millions of pregnant women over many years, and flu shots have been shown to be safe for pregnant women and their babies.

During which trimester is it safe to have a flu shot?

The flu shot is recommended for pregnant women and can be given at any time during pregnancy. Pregnant women are advised to get vaccinated as soon as possible and to speak to their health care providers about being immunized.

Which flu vaccine should pregnant women receive?

Pregnant women should receive the flu shot, which is given with a needle, usually in the arm. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (the College) recommend that pregnant should receive this vaccine.

Will the flu shot give me the flu?

No, you cannot get the flu from receiving the flu vaccine.

Is there a flu vaccine that pregnant women should not receive?

Yes. Pregnant women should not receive the nasal spray vaccine, which is made with the live flu virus. The nasal spray vaccine is safe for women after they have given birth, even if they are breastfeeding, and for family members.

Are preservative in influenza vaccines safe my baby?

Yes. The type of preservative (eg. thimerosal) used in trace amounts in some vaccines has not been shown to be harmful to a pregnant woman or her baby. Some women may be concerned about exposure to preservatives during pregnancy. Single-dose influenza vaccines that contain a mercury-free preservative are available through some manufactures. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the College recommend that pregnant women may receive the inactivated influenza vaccine with or without thimerosal.

What else can I do to protect my baby against the flu?

Getting your flu shot is the most important step in protecting yourself and your baby against the flu. In addition, breastfeeding and making sure other gamily members and caregivers receive the flu vaccine will further protect your baby.

I am breastfeeding my baby. Is it safe to get vaccinated?

Yes. Influenza vaccines can be given to breastfeeding mothers if they were not immunized when they were pregnant. Breastfeeding women can receive either the flu shot or the nasal spray. Breastfeeding women pass antibodies through breast milk, which may also reduce the infant’s chances of getting sick with the flu.

Tdap Vaccination

What is pertussis?

Pertussis (also called whooping cough) is a highly contagious disease that causes severe coughing. People with pertussis may make a "whooping" sound when they try to breathe. In newborns, pertussis can be a life-threatening illness. It can be prevented with a vaccine called the tetanus toxoid, reduced diptheria toxoid and acellular pertussis (Tdap) vaccine.

I am pregnant. Should I get a Tdap shot?

Yes, if you have never received a Tdap vaccine before, you should receive it late in your second trimester (ie, after 20 weeks of gestation ) or third trimester of pregnancy. The Tdap vaccine is an effective and safe way to protect you and your baby from serious illness and complications of pertussis.

I am planning on becoming pregnant. Is it recommended that I receive a Tdap shot?

Yes. All adults should receive a single dose of Tdap. If you have not received a Tdap vaccination before, you can receive a Tdap vaccine now.

During which trimester is it safe to have a Tdap shot?

Experts recommend that the Tdap vaccine be administered to pregnant women late in the second trimester (ie, after 20 weeks of gestation) or third trimester of pregnancy. 

Can newbonds be vaccinated against pertussis?

No. Infants are at risk of getting pertussis until they can be vaccinated at 2 months of age.

What else can I do to protect my baby against pertussis?

Getting your Tdap shot is the most important step in protecting yourself and you baby against whooping cough. It is also important to make sure all family members and caregivers are up to date with their vaccines and, if necessary, that they receive the Tdap vaccination at least 2 weeks before having contact with your baby. This creates a safety "cocoon" of vaccinated caregivers around your baby.

I am breastfeeding my baby. Is it safe to get vaccinated with Tdap?

Yes. A Tdap shot can safely be given to breastfeeding mothers if they did not get the vaccine while they were pregnant.

I did not receive my Tdap shot during pregnancy. Do I still need to be vaccinated?

Yes, if you needed the vaccine and you were not vaccinated with Tdap during pregnancy, you should receive your Tdap shot immediately after your baby is born.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Immunization for Women

American Medical Association

Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine