Why is vaccination necessary?

Vaccines strengthen people's immune systems so their bodies can fight off serious infectious diseases. Vaccines also benefit society by preventing the spread of communicable diseases.

Why do pregnant women need to be vaccinated?

Many women might not realize they are not up-to-date on their immunizations and are susceptible to diseases that can harm them or their unborn child. Pregnant women should talk to their physicians to figure out which vaccines they might need and whether they should get them during pregnancy or wait until after their child is born.

How do I know if a vaccine's ingredients are safe?

All vaccines are tested for safety under the supervision of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The vaccines are checked for purity, potency, and safety, and the FDA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) monitor the safety of each vaccine for as long as it is in use. Some people might be allergic to an ingredient in a vaccine, such as eggs in the influenza vaccine, and should not receive the vaccine until they have talked to their doctors.

Can a vaccine harm my unborn child?

A number of vaccines, especially live-virus vaccines, should not be given to pregnant women because they might be harmful to the baby. (A live-virus vaccine is made using the live strains of a virus.) Some vaccines can be given to the mother in the second or third trimester of pregnancy, while others should only be administered either at least three months before or immediately after the baby is born. Vaccines that are offered during pregnancy, such as the flu shot, are recommended for pregnant women.

What happens if I am exposed to a disease while I am pregnant?

Depending on the circumstances, your doctor will weigh the risks of vaccination against the benefits the vaccine can provide.

Which vaccines can I receive while I am pregnant?

The following vaccines are considered safe to give to women who might be at risk of infection:

  • Hepatitis B: Pregnant women who are at high risk for this disease and have tested negative for the virus can receive this vaccine. It is used to protect the mother and baby against infection both before and after delivery.
  • Influenza: This vaccine can prevent serious illness in the mother during pregnancy. You can receive the vaccine at any stage of your pregnancy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends all pregnant women should receive the flu shot.
  • Tetanus/Diphtheria/ (Tdap): Tdap should be administered during pregnancy, preferably during the third trimester or late second trimester (after 20 weeks of gestation). If you or your family members did not receive this vaccination during pregnancy, Tdap should be administered immediately postpartum while in the hospital to ensure pertussis or “whooping cough” immunity and reduce the risk of transmission to the newborn. The CDC recommends that all pregnant women receive this vaccine, please accept this vaccine for the safety of you and your baby.

Which vaccines should pregnant women avoid?

The following vaccines can potentially be transmitted to the unborn child and might result in miscarriage, premature birth, or birth defects:

  • Hepatitis A: The safety of this vaccine hasn’t been determined and it should be avoided during pregnancy. Women at high risk for exposure to this virus should discuss the risks and benefits with their doctors.
  • Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR): Women should wait at least one month to become pregnant after receiving these live-virus vaccines. If the initial rubella test shows you are rubella non-immune, then you will be given the vaccine after delivery.
  • Varicella: This vaccine, used to prevent chickenpox, should be given at least one month before pregnancy.
  • Pneumococcal: Because the safety of this vaccine is unknown, it should be avoided in pregnancy except for women who are at high risk or have a chronic illness.
  • Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) and Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IPV): Neither the live-virus (OPV) nor the inactivated-virus (IPV) version of this vaccine is recommended for pregnant women. Also, the risk of getting polio in the United States is very low.

What side effects can I expect after a vaccination?

Side effects vary from none to those that can occur up to three weeks after vaccination. If you experience any severe side effects, be sure to tell your doctor:

  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Non-contagious rash or red bumps
  • Pain in joints
  • Severe allergic reaction in very rare cases
  • Soreness and redness at injection site
  • Swelling of neck glands and cheeks

Ask for a Vaccine Information Sheet, (VIS) on the vaccine you have received, or you may go to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

What if I never had chickenpox?

If you have ever had chickenpox, you are immune. If you have not had the chickenpox, you have likely received the Varicella vaccine. If you haven’t, you may still be immune. A blood test can make this determination. If you are non-immune and are exposed to active chickenpox, you need to call your doctor’s office for direction.

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