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Immunizations and Pregnancy

Topic Overview

Your immunity protects both you and your fetus. After you have been immunized (vaccinated) against or infected by a virus or bacteria, your body develops an immunity to it. Full immunity can protect you from future infection, either for a lifetime or a limited period. Partial immunity strengthens your body's ability to fight that infection.

Before you become pregnant, be sure to review your immunization history with your health professional. To ensure a healthy pregnancy, make sure that you are up to date with your routine immunizations before you get pregnant.

Before pregnancy: Rubella, measles, mumps, chickenpox

Rubella, measles, mumps, and chickenpox can harm a growing fetus. They can cause birth defects, fetal death, or premature birth. Chickenpox can also be dangerous for you when you're pregnant.

If you don't know whether you're immune to rubella, measles, or chickenpox, talk to your doctor about a blood test for antibodies to these viruses. If you aren't immune, get the immunizations before you get pregnant. You should not get pregnant for 1 month after getting these vaccines, so keep using birth control for at least 4 weeks.

Your children should receive their immunizations on schedule. Having your child immunized against diseases does not increase your risk for becoming infected with them. You do not need to speed up or delay your child's immunizations.

Before or during pregnancy: Influenza (flu) and pertussis (whooping cough)

Influenza and pertussis are dangerous diseases for newborns and young infants. Influenza can also be dangerous for you when you're pregnant. Getting the influenza and dTap (diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis) vaccines during pregnancy is considered safe for your baby. And these vaccines protect both you and your newborn. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommends:

  • Get the influenza vaccine before or during your pregnancy if you didn't already get the yearly influenza vaccine. This is especially important if you have a chronic health problem (including asthma). The intranasal vaccine (sprayed up your nose) contains live virus, so it is not used during pregnancy.
  • Get a dTap vaccine during each pregnancy. The best time to get this vaccine is between 27 and 32 weeks pregnant. In some situations your healthcare provider may recommend dTap be given earlier. Talk to your healthcare provider about when to get the dTap vaccine.
  • People who expect to have close contact with your baby should also get the influenza and dTap vaccines if they haven't had them. It's best to get them at least 2 weeks before contact with your baby.

If you are already pregnant and are not immune

If you are not immune to rubella, measles, or chickenpox, your doctor will recommend that you not have the vaccine until after childbirth. Instead, you must take every precaution to prevent exposure to these viruses while you're pregnant.

If you are at risk of being exposed to hepatitis B, hepatitis A, rabies, polio, meningitis, or pneumococcal bacteria, your healthcare provider may recommend that you get immunized against these infections during pregnancy.

If you are age 26 or younger and you did not already get the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine before you became pregnant, you can get this vaccine after pregnancy.

For more information, see the topic Immunizations or see the topics related to the specific illnesses mentioned above.

References

Citations

  1. Castillo E, Poliquin V (2018). Immunization in pregnancy. SOGC Clinical Practice Guideline No. 357. Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada, 40(4): 478–489. DOI: 10.1016/j.jogc.2017.11.010. Accessed April 27, 2018.
  2. National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) (2018). Immunizations in pregnancy and breastfeeding. In Canadian Immunization Guide: Part 3—Vaccination of Specific Populations. https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/healthy-living/canadian-immunization-guide-part-3-vaccination-specific-populations/page-4-immunization-pregnancy-breastfeeding.html.

Credits

Adaptation Date: 7/27/2020

Adapted By: Alberta Health Services

Adaptation Reviewed By: Alberta Health Services

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