For pregnant women, there are a number of vaccines to be thinking about during the pregnancy which can help protect your baby. Although this is always at your pregnancy provider’s discretion, the most common vaccines to be talking about would be influenza (especially from September through May), Tdap and (maybe) MMR.
- Influenza vaccination is considered very important to receive if you will be delivering between September and June. Pregnant women who get influenza have higher rates of premature labor and of influenza complications. Just as importantly, some antibodies (immune proteins) are passed through the placenta to the fetus, helping to protect your baby from influenza after birth while he or she is still too young to get a flu vaccine. Also recommended for partners and others who will be spending a lot of time around the baby, such as family members (this concept is known as “cocooning” or surrounding the baby within a web of protected people to decrease possible infection). Normally given once annually, September through April or May.
- Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis) vaccine is given to help to protect you and your baby from pertussis. In adults, pertussis can cause a high fever and prolonged cough; in newborns the respiratory infection can be fatal. As above, also recommended for partners and others who will be spending a lot of time around the baby, such as family members. Given to pregnant women during the third trimester of EACH pregnancy; for all other adults, given only once.
- MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine is actually not given during pregnancy but sometimes is given after delivery. During pregnancy women are tested for immunity to rubella, since contracting rubella during pregnancy may lead to congenital rubella syndrome in infants, characterized by cataracts, heart disease, hearing problems, and developmental delays. This is now rare in the U.S. due to universal vaccination of children at 1 and 4 years old. However, if a woman is found to be “non-immune” to rubella during pregnancy, the standard is for her to receive MMR vaccine right after delivery to prevent possible infection during future pregnancies. Given after delivery if not found to be immune during prenatal testing.