Vaccines can help protect you and your family from dangerous diseases during your pregnancy as well as through your child’s first years of life and beyond. Here is some information to consider as you navigate making decisions about vaccines.
Pregnancy and parenthood are full of excitement. They can also be challenging as you navigate some new areas, like babyproofing, breastfeeding, sleep routines, and so much more. This may include what to do about vaccines—there is a lot of information out there, and it can be hard to know what to believe.
Vaccines During Pregnancy
When you are pregnant, you share everything with your baby. That means that when you get vaccinated, you are not just protecting yourself—you are giving your baby some early protection too. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the following for pregnant women:
- Whooping cough (also called Tdap) vaccine during your 27th through 36th week of pregnancy, preferably during the earlier part of this time period.
When you get the Tdap vaccine during pregnancy, your body creates protective antibodies and passes some of them to your baby before birth. These antibodies provide your newborn some short-term, early protection against whooping cough.
- Flu (influenza) vaccine any time during pregnancy. Note that pregnant women should get a flu shot, not the nasal spray flu vaccine.
Changes in your body during pregnancy make you more likely to get seriously ill from the flu. The flu can also cause serious problems like premature labor and delivery. Get the flu shot if you are pregnant during flu season—it’s the best way to protect yourself and your newborn baby for several months after birth.
Vaccines for Your Baby
Vaccination is one of the best ways you can protect your baby from 14 serious childhood diseases before age 2. The CDC sets the immunization schedule in the United States. It’s a good idea to review this schedule before your baby’s first shot visit so you know what to expect and can write down any questions you want to ask at your baby’s next appointment.
Diseases that vaccines prevent can be very serious—even deadly—especially for infants and young children. For example, a high number of measles cases and outbreaks have been reported in the U.S. so far in 2019. Measles is very contagious. Anyone who is not vaccinated is at risk of getting infected, including babies who are too young to receive their measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine (the first dose is normally given between 12 and 15 months of age and the second dose is given between 4 and 6 years old).
It is very important to stay up to date on your baby’s vaccinations. It can take weeks for a vaccine to start working, and some vaccines require multiple doses. If you wait until you think your baby could be exposed to a serious illness—like when they start childcare or during a disease outbreak—there may not be enough time for the vaccine to provide protection.
Finding Credible Information
It’s normal to have questions about vaccines. If you are already a parent, talk to your child’s nurse or pediatrician. If you are pregnant, ask your obstetrician or midwife about vaccines during pregnancy. If possible, find a healthcare provider for your baby before they are born so you can schedule a prenatal consultation and ask questions about infant vaccines.
There is a lot of vaccine information online, but not all of it is credible. Here are some sources that you can trust:
- CDC’s website (cdc.gov/vaccines)
- Healthy Children—from the American Academy of Pediatrics (healthychildren.org)
- Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (chop.edu/centers-programs/vaccine-education-center)
Part of becoming a parent is learning how to navigate all kinds of important health decisions for your family. Learn more about vaccines so you can keep yourself and your family on track for a long and healthy life.
Questions to ask your nurse or your baby’s nurse:
- Which vaccines do I need during pregnancy?
- Is my child up to date on their shots?
- What side effects can I expect after my child gets their shots?
- What other shots will my child need as they get older?
- Which diseases are these shots preventing?
- Which vaccines are important for my partner and other caregivers?
Candice Robinson, MD, MPH, works for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases