August is National Immunization Awareness Month. Below we highlight why vaccines are so important, for the health of moms and babies.
Vaccines help protect you from diseases but during pregnancy you also pass this protection to your baby. That’s why if you’re pregnant, or planning to get pregnant, being up-to-date on all of your vaccinations is so important. Most babies don’t start getting most vaccinations until they’re 2 months old. When you are up-to-date on your vaccines it helps reduce the risk of your baby getting sick and keeps them safe until it’s time to get their own vaccinations
Chickenpox and rubella (also called German measles) are examples of infections that can harm you and your baby during pregnancy. If you’ve had vaccines for these conditions, it means you’re immune and are protected against these diseases. But if you haven’t had these vaccinations it’s best to get caught up before you get pregnant.
If you’re not sure about what vaccinations you’ve had talk to your health care provider. Your provider can do blood tests in most cases to find out what vaccinations you need. Your provider may recommend these vaccinations before you get pregnant:
Flu (also called influenza). You get this vaccine once a year before flu season (October through May).
HPV (stands for human papillomavirus). This vaccine protects against the infection that causes genital warts. The infection also may lead to cervical cancer. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that women through age 26 get the HPV vaccine. Since you can’t get the HPV vaccine during pregnancy it’s important to get it before you get pregnant, if you need it.
MMR (stands for measles, mumps and rubella). This vaccine protects you against the measles, mumps and rubella. You may have gotten the MMR vaccine as a child, but you may need a booster shot (another dose) as you get older. Wait 4 weeks after you get an MMR vaccination before you get pregnant.
Varicella (also called chickenpox). Chickenpox is easily spread and can cause birth defects if you get it during pregnancy. It’s also very dangerous to a baby. If you’re thinking about getting pregnant and you never had the chickenpox or the vaccine, tell your provider.
COVID-19. The CDC urges those who are trying to get pregnant or who might become pregnant in the future to get vaccinated. CDC also recommends that these individuals stay up to date on COVID-19 vaccines, including getting booster doses when eligible. These vaccines are also safe to have during and after pregnancy and can protect your baby from COVID-19 until they are old enough to get their own vaccine.
Two vaccinations are recommended during pregnancy. These include:
- The flu shot (if you didn’t get one before pregnancy)
- The Tdap vaccine. This vaccine prevents pertussis (also called whooping cough). Pertussis is easily spread and very dangerous for a baby. You get this vaccine during each pregnancy at 27 to 36 weeks.
If your provider thinks you may be at risk, he may recommend vaccinations during pregnancy to help protect you from other harmful diseases. Some examples include Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and pneumonia. For more information check out our vaccination chart.
If you didn’t get any vaccinations before or during pregnancy, do it after your baby’s born. If you didn’t get the Tdap vaccine during pregnancy, it’s recommended you get it right after you give birth. This helps prevent you from getting pertussis and passing it on to your baby.
If you’re breastfeeding, it’s safe to get routine vaccines, but ask your provider if you have concerns.