Debunking immunization myths during pregnancy
There is so much to celebrate about a wanted pregnancy! Life is about to change in the best way possible, after all. However, expecting parents are faced with a challenging road ahead: No sushi! Avoid some cheeses and charcuterie! Adjust your workouts to be lower impact! And perhaps the most brutal of all? Brave the cold and flu season… without the help of over-the-counter pain and fever meds.
The reality is that pregnant people are not only eating for two, they’re fighting off viruses for two, too. Vaccinations during pregnancy might seem somewhat intimidating though, what with some pretty graphic myths surrounding their impact on fertility, risk of miscarriage, and other serious pregnancy complications. It’s enough to make the best of us think twice. So, what could people expect when they’re expecting when it comes to immunizations during pregnancy? The answer is far simpler, and safer, than it may seem.
How to know which vaccines are safe to receive during pregnancy
As a general rule, pregnancy-safe immunizations contain dead viruses or bacteria that can no longer cause a disease, which are referred to as inactive vaccines.1 The ones pregnant people will want to avoid are live-attenuated vaccines, which contain only weakened viruses and can pose risk to still-developing embryos, but more on that later. While this differentiation is crucial, it still goes without saying that the benefits of vaccines generally outweigh the risks of a virus when a defenceless budding life is involved.
The expecting parent shares everything with their baby, including the early advantages of protection provided by vaccines!2 Opting into immunization helps the parent carrying the pregnancy to develop antibodies that can protect them against viruses or diseases that would otherwise not only severely impact their own health, but harm the fetus as well.3 This provides protection to both the carrier and the developing child until immunization can begin post-partum. This list gets the stamp of approval when it comes to pregnancy-safe immunizations:
- Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis) vaccine4
- Flu vaccine
- COVID-19 vaccine5
Why stop there? By taking so many precautions themselves, expecting families can ask close family and friends to stay up to date with their immunizations, too, for the safety of the carrying parent and baby.
Consider these live-attenuated vaccines, but before pregnancy
There are immunizations to consider prior to getting pregnant that may add to parent/baby health. This is where live-attenuated vaccines come in: these immunizations contain a weakened version of a virus or disease that would not harm an otherwise healthy individual.6 That said, live-attenuated vaccines can compromise fetus health and development in utero. Among a list of vaccines to avoid during pregnancy, popular ones include:7
- MMR (measles, mumps, rubella)
Overall, the answer is yes, vaccines are safe to receive during pregnancy, as long as they are inactive. Starting a family can seem overwhelming, and it’s all the more reason to stay safe through shared immunization. Vaccine recommendations and when they can be administered to pregnant people are developed with the highest standards of vaccine safety in mind for both the person carrying the pregnancy and their growing baby. We encourage pregnant people to consult our Pregnancy Resources page for more information on what to do to contribute to a healthy pregnancy.
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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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Note: the hyperlinks that direct to other sites are not continuously updated. It is possible that some links become untraceable over time. Thank you.
- Vaccine Safety for Moms-To-Be.
- Immunization in pregnancy and breastfeeding: Canadian Immunization Guide.
- Vaccination and pregnancy: During pregnancy
- Vaccination and pregnancy: COVID-19
- Vaccines During Pregnancy FAQs