No, they are not. Many vaccines have been carefully tested and monitored for safety among pregnant women. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) strongly recommend that pregnant women get vaccinated for both influenza, the virus that causes “the flu,” and pertussis, more commonly known as whooping cough. By receiving vaccinations against these preventable diseases, pregnant women can take an important first step toward having a happy, healthy baby.
Expectant mothers who contract the flu during their pregnancy have a much greater chance of developing serious health problems, including premature delivery. Over 200,000 people are hospitalized in the US for flu-related complications each year, and the flu poses a significant threat to pregnant women and their unborn babies. By simply getting vaccinated, expectant mothers can transfer antibodies that combat the flu to their babies during pregnancy and provide protection against flu in the first six months of life before the baby can be vaccinated.
The Tdap vaccine, which protects against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis, protects the mother and may also protect her baby. Newborn infants who are infected with pertussis have the highest risk of death from the disease. Thus, CDC recommends Tdap vaccination for all pregnant women during the third trimester of pregnancy to protect the baby in the first few months of life. CDC also recommends all adults who will be around your baby get a Tdap vaccine as well.
There may be other vaccines needed depending on your other health conditions. If you are planning to have a baby or have recently become pregnant, speak with your doctor about which vaccines you may need to protect both yourself and your baby. For more information on the vaccines recommended for adults, including pregnant women, visit the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) website.
About Dr. Laura E. Riley:
Dr. Laura E. Riley is a mother and an obstetrician. She is the director of Labor and Delivery at Massachusetts General Hospital and author of You and Your Baby: Pregnancy: The Ultimate Week-by-Week Pregnancy Guide.