A Shot In The Arm

Vaccines you should get (and avoid) during pregnancy


Pop Quiz: What's more dangerous when you're pregnant: getting the flu or a flu shot? Not sure? How about this one: Are you up-to-date on your mumps vaccine? You'll probably have to think back to kindergarten. Or ask your mom in hopes she kept records.

As to the first question, you should definitely get a flu shot. "It's perfectly safe for pregnant women, and you don't want to come down with the flu if you can avoid it, because the risk of complications—including infections—is higher during pregnancy," says David Wallace, M.D., an OB-GYN at Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch, N.J.

Though routine vaccines are safe while nursing, recommendations for pregnant women vary. Check out our chart to see what you might need and what's safe when.

VACCINE WHO NEEDS IT AND WHY WHEN YOU SHOULD GET IT BUT... OK During Pregnancy Influenza Women who will be pregnant anytime during flu season, October to May; risk of complications from flu are higher during pregnancy. As early in the flu season as possible but still worthwhile later on (anytime during pregnancy is safe). Get the shot, not the nasal spray vaccine, which is a live virus and not recommended during pregnancy. Hepatitis B Unvaccinated women at risk of contracting hepatitis B (e.g., more than one sex partner in the last six months; a job involving contact with blood). An estimated 5 percent of Americans will be infected sometime in their lives; babies can get it from their mothers during birth, and it can last a lifetime. Anytime before you give birth. If a blood test shows you're not infected and you have no risk factors, you can skip it. All babies are vaccinated soon after birth. Not OK During Pregnancy MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) Women who are not immune to rubella (aka German measles), a disease dangerous to fetal development. At least 28 days before conceiving or immediately after giving birth. Women in areas where outbreaks of mumps have been prevalent recently may also be vaccinated after delivering. Varicella (chickenpox) Anyone who shows no immunity to the virus by a blood test. At least 28 days before conceiving or immediately after giving birth. See "Chickenpox and Other Live-Virus Vaccines,". Human Papillomavirus (HPV) This new vaccine that guards against cervical cancer is recommended for women under age 27. Anytime before or after pregnancy. Does not reduce the need for regular Pap smears. Given Case By Case Whooping Cough/ Tetanus/ Diphtheria (Tdap) Whooping cough (pertussis) has been on the rise and immunity wanes over time, so adult boosters are recommended, especially for parents. Whooping cough can be deadly for babies, who aren't fully protected until they get their third vaccine dose at 6 months old. Adults should get a Tdap booster shot, particularly if it's been more than two years since their last booster, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends. Depending on how active pertussis has been where you live, your doctor should determine whether the risk of contracting it during pregnancy outweighs any potential risk of the vaccine. Also, every adult caring for the baby should get Tdap; most infant pertussis is transmitted by caregivers.