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Vaccinations during Pregnancy

Vaccines can help protect both you and your baby from vaccine-preventable diseases. During pregnancy, vaccinated mothers pass on protective antibodies—infection-fighting molecules—to their babies before they are born. This provides some immunity against certain vaccine-preventable diseases during their first few months of life, when your baby is still too young to be vaccinated. It also helps provide important protection for you throughout your pregnancy.

Zika and Pregnant Women
Zika virus can spread from a pregnant woman to her baby and might cause serious birth defects, including microcephaly (abnormally small head). You can get the virus from a mosquito bite or it can be sexually transmitted by your partner. Currently, there is not a vaccine to prevent Zika. The best way for you and your partner to prevent getting infected by the Zika virus is to not travel to areas with active Zika virus transmission and take steps to prevent mosquito bites and avoid getting Zika through sex. Learn more about Zika and pregnant women.

Vaccines for Pregnant Women

There are two vaccines routinely recommended by CDC to be administered during pregnancy:

  • Flu Vaccine: During each pregnancy you should get the inactivated influenza (flu) vaccine (IIV) (flu shot) to protect yourself and your baby from the flu. It can be given during any trimester of pregnancy. A pregnant woman who gets the flu is at increased risk for serious complications and hospitalization, compared to other adults. Pregnant women who have the flu can also have serious problems during pregnancy, including premature labor and delivery, which may pose a risk to the baby as well. When mothers are vaccinated during pregnancy, babies are also less likely to get the flu and to be hospitalized for serious flu-related complications like pneumonia (a lung infection) once they are born. For more information, see Pregnant Women & Influenza and talk with your doctor or midwife.
  • Whooping Cough (Pertussis) Vaccine: Pregnant women should also get the tetanus, diphtheria, and acellular pertussis vaccine (Tdap) during each pregnancy. Ideally, the vaccine should be given as early as possible in the third trimester, but it can be given anytime between 27 and 36 weeks of pregnancy in order for pertussis (whooping cough) protection to be passed on to the unborn child. This vaccine is important to help protect young babies from whooping cough (pertussis) before they are old enough to get vaccinated themselves. Whooping cough can be life-threatening for young babies—about half of babies who get whooping cough end up in the hospital. Tdap is also recommended for other adults, including elderly, who spend time with your baby. For more information, see Pertussis Prevention and talk with your doctor or midwife.

Many vaccine-preventable diseases, rarely seen in the United States, are still common in other parts of the world. A pregnant woman planning international travel should talk to her health care professional about what other vaccines may be recommended. For more information, see Traveling while Pregnant, found on CDC’s Travelers’ Health website.

Vaccines for Pregnant Women Are Safe

  • Strong record of safety. Both vaccines have been carefully monitored for years and are safe for pregnant women and their babies. Decades of scientific research also strongly support that, in addition to being safe, Tdap and flu vaccines also help provide important disease protection. 
  • Mild side effects. Vaccines, like any medication, can have side effects.  However, these side effects are usually mild and go away on their own. Reported side effects to Tdap and flu vaccines include soreness, redness, or swelling at the injection site, muscle aches, fatigue, or fever. These side effects are seen in many people, not just pregnant women.  

Federal agencies including CDC and FDA continuously monitor vaccine safety. Read more about the safety of Tdap vaccine and flu vaccine for pregnant women.

Vaccines after Your Baby Arrives

It is safe for a woman to receive vaccines right after giving birth, even while she is breastfeeding.

  • Whooping cough: Mothers who have not received Tdap should be vaccinated right after delivery. Family and others who spend time with the baby should also receive the whooping cough vaccine.
  • Measles, mumps, and rubella and chickenpox: A woman who is not immune to measles, mumps and rubella and/or chickenpox (varicella) should be vaccinated before leaving the hospital.

Getting Tdap and flu vaccine during pregnancy provides temporarily protection for your baby against the diseases these vaccines prevent.  Protect your new baby and learn about vaccines your baby needs in their first 15 months.

Thinking about Becoming Pregnant? 

Before becoming pregnant, you should be up to date on routine adult vaccines. This will help protect you and your child. Before your pregnancy, talk to your health care professional about your vaccine history and make sure you are up to date.

  • Measles, Mumps, and Rubella: It is very important for women to be up to date on their measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine before becoming pregnant. Rubella infection during pregnancy can cause babies to have serious birth defects with devastating, life-long consequences, or even die before birth. You can have a pre-pregnancy blood test to see if you are immune to the disease. You probably received the MMR vaccine as a child, but you should confirm this with your doctor. If you need to get an MMR vaccine, you should avoid becoming pregnant until one month after receiving the MMR vaccine
  • Hepatitis B: A baby whose mother has hepatitis B is at increased risk for becoming infected with hepatitis B during delivery. Talk to your health care professional about getting tested for hepatitis B and whether or not you should get vaccinated. For more information, see CDC’s answers to frequently asked questions on Pregnancy and Hepatitis B.

All routinely administered vaccines can safely be used in breastfeeding women.

More Information

Read more about vaccines and pregnancy at the CDC’s site

Last reviewed: November 2016