Some vaccines can’t be given during pregnancy, so it’s best to take a look at your immunization record prior to getting pregnant. If you’re like most women, there’s a good chance you haven’t thought about vaccinations since you were school-aged. Are you up to date? Do you need any boosters? If you are fully immunized prior to pregnancy, you will protect your new baby from these diseases for the first 6-12 months of life. If you get a vaccine that contains a live virus or live-attenuated virus (e.g., measles, mumps, rubella, chicken pox, yellow fever), you should wait 4 weeks before becoming pregnant. Talk to your health care provider about getting your immunizations up to date.
If you are planning to become pregnant, there are some vaccines that are particularly important to consider:
Rubella (German measles). This illness can be very dangerous for your baby and is most dangerous in early pregnancy. This vaccine is not given during pregnancy, so it is important that you have immunity prior to becoming pregnant.
Hepatitis B. Your job, lifestyle, or health history may put you at risk of becoming infected with hepatitis B. This vaccine is safe for use during pregnancy.
Influenza vaccine. You can get the flu vaccine any time prior to or during pregnancy as there is no known risk to the baby. Getting the flu when you’re pregnant can be very uncomfortable and pregnant women are at increased risk for serious complications from the flu, so vaccination is even more important. All pregnant women with suspected or known influenza infection should be treated with Tamiflu.
Tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis. Recently, pertussis was added to the tetanus-diphtheria vaccine. Pertussis is a transmissable respiratory infection that poses the greatest risk to infants less than 4 months old. There have been outbreaks of pertussis in Canada in recent years. Regardless of vaccination history, it is recommended that all pregnant women receive the Tdap vaccine (Tetanus Toxoid, Reduced Diphtheria Toxoid and Reduced Acellular Pertussis) between 21 and 32 weeks of gestation. You should be vaccinated with Tdap in every pregnancy. Once you are vaccinated, your body will make antibodies that provide protection to your newborn. The vaccine is safe for the mother and the fetus.
Varicella (chickenpox). Varicella is not common during pregnancy, but can cause severe illness and increased rates of maternal and infant mortality. You should be immunized for varicella prior to pregnancy if you do not have immunity, particularly if you work with young children, are a health care worker, or have emigrated from a tropical region.
Other vaccines. Special circumstances may require you to have additional vaccines. For example, if you are travelling to areas of the world where vaccine-preventable disease (e.g., polio, tuberculosis) are common, you may need these vaccines. Discuss your vaccination status and needs with your health care provider before becoming pregnant.