Immunizations during pregnancy

by Kaiser Permanente |

Getting vaccinated against harmful diseases helps protect you and your baby. You both develop immunity, which protects you from future infections and makes it easier to fight off illness.

Research shows that vaccines protect women both before and after they give birth. Many studies confirm that your baby is also protected after birth.

During pregnancy, you can receive vaccinations for several diseases, such as:

  • Flu
  • Hepatitis A and B
  • Meningitis
  • Polio
  • Rabies
  • Whooping cough (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis)

All are typically given as shots.

COVID-19 vaccine

Being pregnant increases your risk of getting COVID-19. The disease may have more serious side effects if you are pregnant when you get infected. It is also more likely to be fatal.

Pregnant women who have COVID-19 are:

  • 3 times more likely to require intensive care
  • 14 times more likely to need a tube to help them breathe
  • 22 times more likely to have a preterm birth

If you get COVID-19, your baby is more likely to need intensive care if they are born early. Complications like stillbirth are also more common.

The COVID-19 vaccine helps protect you and your baby against these complications. Kaiser Permanente recommends that all people who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant get the vaccine.

Tdap vaccine

The Tdap vaccine protects you against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (also known as “whooping cough”). These three diseases can be dangerous to you and your baby.

Tetanus causes symptoms like a stiff neck, back, or shoulders. As the infection gets worse, more serious symptoms like seizures may occur. Tetanus can enter the body through cuts, wounds, or splinters.

Diphtheria and pertussis both cause breathing problems and can be life-threatening for newborns.

The best way to prevent these diseases is by getting the Tdap shot. Getting the vaccine in your third trimester offers your baby the most protection.

Flu vaccine

The influenza vaccine helps prevent you from catching the flu or developing severe symptoms. Studies show that a flu shot can lower your risk of being hospitalized by about 40%.

The flu shot also protects your baby from the disease. This protection lasts for several months after you give birth.

Talking with your clinician

Be sure to know your vaccination history before becoming pregnant. Talk with your clinician about which vaccines you already have and which you may need. At your first visit, you will have blood tests to determine which diseases you’re protected from.

Vaccines after pregnancy

Some vaccines aren’t recommended until after pregnancy. It’s best to wait to receive vaccinations for rubella, measles, and chickenpox until after you’ve given birth. In the meantime, try to avoid exposure to these diseases.

This article has been created by a national group of Kaiser Permanente ob-gyns, certified nurse-midwives, pediatricians, lactation consultants and other specialists who came together to provide you with the best pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and newborn information.

Some of the content is used and adapted with permission of The Permanente Medical Group.