Vaccinations in Pregnancy

Can you get a flu, chicken pox or tetanus shot during pregnancy?

Not all vaccinations will have the same effect on an unborn baby. Basically, vaccines can be divided into three categories: those that contain a weakened live organism, those that contain a killed organism and those that contain chemically changed proteins from bacteria. The vaccines found in the live organism and the chemically altered bacteria groups are potentially hazardous for pregnant women.

The idea of vaccination doesn't appeal to everyone, but before you let your opinion or your immunity decide whether or not you need an immunization, learn about some important vaccines and how they will affect you and your unborn baby.

Vaccinations During Pregnancy Can Cause Trouble

The problem with some vaccinations is that there's a chance your baby will be affected by the organism even though you won't be. This is one reason to have a medical check-up before getting pregnant: if you receive the immunizations before you conceive, there's no opportunity for those viruses or bacteria to pass through the placenta and into your baby. Of course, thorough planning isn't always possible, and you may find out that your body is lacking certain important antibodies after you find out you're pregnant. In many cases, the risks must be weighed against the benefits before a decision to vaccinate during pregnancy is made.

The chicken pox virus can cause serious problems in a pregnant woman and her baby, but the vaccine is a live one, making it just as dangerous to the pregnancy as the illness itself. Like pregnancy and chicken pox vaccine, the MMR vaccine in pregnancy can lead to complications such as miscarriage and birth defects, and it should also be avoided. If your blood work shows that you don't have antibodies to these viruses, it's safer to do your very best to stay away from any people or places where they are prevalent instead of risking the side effects of the vaccine.

On the other hand, some vaccines are a good choice when the chances of infection are simply too high to ignore. Inactivated bacterial vaccines are only used where the risk of exposure to diseases like menigococcus infections or typhoid fever is high, since there appears to be no risk of birth defects, but there's also limited data on side effects. The tetanus shot during pregnancy is considered to be safe, and it's often a better idea to get the shot if you may have been exposed to the harmful organism than risk neonatal tetanus, which can be fatal for your baby.

About the Flu Vaccine and Pregnancy

Coming down with the flu during pregnancy can lead to very serious complications, and as the vaccine is made from a killed virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that all women who will be pregnant through flu season get the flu shot. Even if you've had a flu shot in previous years, you need to get a new one each year because there will be different strains of the virus during each flu season. Whether you're in your first, second or third trimester, ask your doctor for the flu shot as soon as it's available.

While the vast majority of expectant mothers will experience no dangerous side effects from the flu shot, there are a few factors that make it unsafe for some pregnant women. You should avoid the flu vaccine if you have an egg allergy, if you've had Guillain-Barre syndrome or if it's in nasal-spray form (which is actually made from a weakened live virus). In the end, you should always tell your doctor about your medical history and any previous reactions to medication, which will help them immensely when it comes to weighing the risks and benefits of a vaccine.