Q & A: Vaccines for Mothers to be
“If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, you will want to do everything possible to keep you and your baby healthy. Some diseases can be especially harmful for pregnant women and their babies. Luckily, many of these can be prevented through well-timed vaccination.”1
When should I be vaccinated?
Ideally, you should ensure that your vaccinations are up to date before becoming pregnant, since some live vaccines are not recommended during pregnancy.2 Conversely, other vaccines may be most protective for your baby when they are given in specific time frames of pregnancy, such as during the last trimester.3
What vaccinations do I need?
The specific vaccinations you may need will be determined based on your age, lifestyle, medical conditions you may have, such as asthma or diabetes, type and locations of travel, and your vaccination history.4
Consult your doctor or vaccine provider to find out which vaccinations are right for you and your baby. Immunization is important for your partner and other members of household, and caregivers as well, to avoid contagious illnesses from being transmitted to a pregnant woman in the household. If you're traveling abroad or at increased risk of certain infections, other vaccines may also be recommended during pregnancy — such as hepatitis A and hepatitis B vaccines.2 The Public Health Agency of Canada recommends that all pregnant women be tested for hepatitis B, since it can easily transmitted to the baby during childbirth.3
What are the benefits of vaccination during pregnancy?
As a pregnant woman, the immunity you have developed thanks to vaccinations and your previous exposure to some contagious illnesses is passed on to your baby. And this protection often lasts beyond pregnancy and into your baby’s first months of life.5
Active and passive vaccines – what’s the difference?
Active vaccines mimic harmful bacteria or viruses, thus triggering your immune system to produce antibodies. Active vaccines known as “live-attenuated” are made up of weakened forms of live bacteria or viruses that have had their harmful elements removed. Passive vaccines contain antibodies that fight bacteria or viruses, rather than the actual bacteria or viruses. 6
Is vaccination safe during pregnancy?
Studies show that most vaccinations are safe during pregnancy, including passive vaccines and some active vaccines. Live-attenuated vaccines are not given to pregnant women, to avoid potential harm to the baby.3
Which vaccines are especially important for prospective mothers?
- Rubella (German measles) vaccine: Catching rubella during pregnancy can have serious consequences for both mother and baby. A simple blood test will determine your immunity. The rubella vaccine is often given as part of the combined measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine. Because this is a live attenuated vaccine, you should have the vaccination at least 4 weeks before conceiving.5
- Influenza (flu) and seasonal vaccines: Infection with H1N1 influenza carries an increased risk of serious complications and hospitalization for pregnant women. The flu shot is recommended for women who will be pregnant during flu season, from November through March. Avoid the nasal spray vaccine, which is made from a live virus.2,5
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This information should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your doctor. There may be variations in treatment that your physician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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- Pregnant people
- Which vaccines during pregnancy are recommended and which ones should I avoid?
- Immunization in pregnancy and breastfeeding
- Vaccines for pregnant women
- Vaccination and pregnancy (fact sheet)
- Immunizations: Active Versus Passive