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Vaccines during pregnancy: Are they safe?

I'm wondering about vaccines during pregnancy. Which vaccines are recommended and which ones should I avoid?

Generally, vaccines that contain inactivated (killed) viruses can be given during pregnancy. Vaccines that contain live viruses aren't recommended for pregnant women.

Two vaccines are routinely recommended during pregnancy:

  • Influenza (flu) shot. The flu shot is recommended for women who are pregnant during flu season typically November through March. The flu shot is made from an inactivated virus, so it's safe for both you and your baby. Avoid the nasal spray vaccine, which is made from a live virus.
  • Tetanus toxoid, reduced diphtheria toxoid and acellular pertussis (Tdap) vaccine. One dose of Tdap vaccine is recommended during each pregnancy to offer protection from whooping cough (pertussis), tetanus and diphtheria, regardless of when you had your last Tdap or tetanus-diphtheria (Td) vaccination. Ideally, the vaccine should be given between 27 and 36 weeks of pregnancy. Whooping cough can be dangerous even life-threatening for infants. Getting the Tdap vaccine during pregnancy can help protect you from the infection and might also help protect your baby after birth.

In addition, if you're traveling abroad or you're at increased risk of certain infections, your health care provider may recommend other vaccines during pregnancy such as hepatitis A, hepatitis B, meningococcal or pneumococcal vaccines.

Certain vaccines should generally be avoided during pregnancy, including:

  • Varicella (chickenpox)
  • Human papillomavirus
  • Measles, mumps and rubella
  • Zoster

If you're planning a pregnancy, talk to your health care provider about any vaccines you may need beforehand. Live vaccines should be given at least a month before conception.

Updated: 2/15/2013

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