Women should be up to date on their vaccines before becoming pregnant, and should receive vaccines against both the flu and whooping cough (pertussis) during pregnancy. These vaccines not only protect the mother by preventing illnesses and complications, but also pass on protection to her baby before birth.
Get off to a healthy start by making sure that your immunizations are up to date before becoming pregnant. Some vaccine-preventable diseases, such as rubella, can lead to significant pregnancy complications, including birth defects. Women who are planning to become pregnant may need to receive some vaccines before the start of pregnancy. These vaccines, such as the measles mumps rubella (MMR) vaccine, may need to be administered at least 4 weeks before a woman becomes pregnant.
Vaccines recommended during pregnancy
The vaccines you get during your pregnancy will provide your developing baby with some disease protection (immunity) that will last the first months of life after birth. By getting vaccinated during pregnancy, you can pass antibodies to your baby that may help protect against diseases. This early coverage is critical for diseases like the flu and whooping cough because babies in the first several months of life are at the greatest risk of severe illness from these diseases, but are too young to be vaccinated themselves. Passing maternal antibodies on to them is the only way to help directly benefit them. You can continue to look after your child’s health after they are born by following the recommended childhood immunization schedule as it is the best way to protect them from serious, vaccine-preventable diseases, starting with the first dose of hepatitis B vaccine within 24 hours of birth.
When it comes to the flu, even if you are generally healthy, changes in immune, heart, and lung functions during pregnancy make you more likely to have a severe case of the flu if you catch it. If you catch the flu when you are pregnant, you also have a higher chance of experiencing pregnancy complications, such as premature labor and delivery. Getting a flu shot will help protect you and your baby while you are pregnant. You can get a flu shot during any trimester.
Whooping Cough (Pertussis)
In cases when doctors are able to determine who spread whooping cough to an infant, the mother was often the source. Once you have protection from the Tdap shot, you are less likely to give whooping cough to your newborn while caring for him or her. The whooping cough vaccine also is very safe for you and your developing baby. Doctors and midwives who specialize in caring for pregnant women agree that the whooping cough vaccine is important to get during the third trimester of each pregnancy. You should receive this vaccine preferably during the early part of the 27-36 week of pregnancy. This ensures each of your babies gets the greatest number of antibodies from you and the best protection possible against this disease. Getting the vaccine during your pregnancy will not put you at increased risk for pregnancy complications. Even if you received the Tdap vaccine in the past, you should get one during each pregnancy.
Childhood immunization resources
For other common questions related to childhood immunizations, please visit our common questions about childhood immunizations and childhood vaccine information for parents and caregivers pages.