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What you need to know about vaccines and pregnancy


Saturday, February 1, 2014
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A pregnant woman has just returned from her first prenatal doctor’s visit. Her doctor has given her a large packet of information on how to keep herself and her growing baby healthy. There is a long list of everything she shouldn’t do, restrictions on eating certain foods and drinks, no smoking, avoiding changing the cat litter, and the list continues. She is confused because there are so many things she shouldn’t expose herself to or put in her body, but her doctor recommended that she get a flu shot and a whooping cough vaccine. She does not want to do anything that will hurt her baby and wonders if it is safe to get vaccinated during pregnancy.

Vaccines that are recommended during pregnancy are safe for pregnant women and their unborn babies, and are an important part of having a healthy pregnancy. The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) recommends that pregnant women get two vaccines during every pregnancy: the influenza vaccine, commonly called the flu shot, and a pertussis or whooping cough vaccine, which is the tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (Tdap) shot. A pregnant woman’s doctor may also recommend other vaccines before, during, or after pregnancy depending on her age, other medical conditions, whether overseas travel is planned, and what vaccines she has received in the past.

Vaccines help keep pregnant women and their new babies healthy. After a pregnant woman gets vaccinated, she passes along protection from vaccines to her baby. This protects her baby from some diseases during the first few months of life until the baby can get vaccinated. Vaccines also protect pregnant women from getting some diseases that can be dangerous to themselves and their babies.

Pregnant women should get the influenza (flu) shot because the flu can make them very sick. Women who get a flu shot during pregnancy are less likely to go into early labor, and their babies are less likely to be stillborn, born at a low birth weight, or hospitalized after birth. It is safe for a pregnant woman to receive the flu shot at any time during her pregnancy, and it will not hurt her unborn baby.

Pregnant women should also receive Tdap vaccine during every pregnancy, preferably between 27 and 36 weeks of pregnancy (during the third trimester). The Tdap shot protects both the pregnant woman and her baby from pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough. This disease can be life-threatening to infants, but mothers receiving a Tdap vaccine during pregnancy helps protect babies against whooping cough until they are fully vaccinated.

While there are a lot of things pregnant women cannot do, there are many things a pregnant woman can do to keep herself and her baby healthy. Getting vaccinated is important to check-off the “to-do” list when preparing for a new baby.

Learn more about vaccines that pregnant women should receive at www.cdc.gov/vaccines/adults/rec-vac/pregnant.html.

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