Which vaccines during pregnancy are recommended and which ones should I avoid?

Answers from Roger W. Harms, M.D.

Generally, vaccines that contain killed (inactivated) viruses can be given during pregnancy. Vaccines that contain live viruses aren't recommended for pregnant women.

Two vaccines are routinely recommended during pregnancy:

  • Flu (influenza) shot. The flu shot is recommended for women who are pregnant during flu season — typically November through March. The flu shot is made from an inactivated virus, so it's safe for both you and your baby. Avoid the nasal spray vaccine, which is made from a live virus.
  • Tetanus toxoid, reduced diphtheria toxoid and acellular pertussis (Tdap) vaccine. One dose of Tdap vaccine is recommended during each pregnancy to protect your newborn from whooping cough (pertussis), regardless of when you had your last Tdap or tetanus-diphtheria (Td) vaccination. Ideally, the vaccine should be given between 27 and 36 weeks of pregnancy.

Getting the flu shot and the Tdap vaccine during pregnancy can protect you from infection and can also help protect your baby after birth before he or she can be vaccinated. This is important because the flu and whooping cough can be particularly dangerous for infants.

If you're traveling abroad or you're at increased risk of certain infections, your health care provider might also recommend other vaccines during pregnancy — such as hepatitis A and hepatitis B vaccines.

Certain vaccines should generally be avoided during pregnancy, including:

  • Varicella (chickenpox)
  • Human papillomavirus
  • Measles, mumps and rubella
  • Zoster

If you're planning a pregnancy, talk to your health care provider about any vaccines you might need beforehand. Live vaccines should be given at least a month before conception.

March 11, 2014