Vaccines in Pregnancy - "Should I Get a Flu Shot and Tdap while I am Pregnant?"

Vaccines in Pregnancy – “Should I get a Flu Shot and Tdap while I am Pregnant?”

Obstetricians are recommending to their pregnant patients that they get a Flu Shot (Influenza vaccine) and the vaccine against Whooping Cough/Pertussis (Tdap) while they are pregnant. Some women worry about the risks of vaccines on their growing fetuses.  Should they be worried?

Neither the Tdap nor the Flu shot are made up of infectious agents.  The vaccines contain proteins which are similar to the virus, but no actual viral particles.  These proteins cause one’s immune system to make antibodies to those particular viruses.  These antibodies can help protect a pregnant woman and her fetus from getting the flu and whooping cough infections should they get exposed.  Data from studies show the vaccines are safe in pregnancy and they may prove to be life-saving for some women and babies.

Pregnant women who get the flu are more likely to have a severe form of the flu, often requiring hospitalization.  Every year several pregnant women end up in the hospital intensive care unit on ventilators because of a severe influenza infection.  Women who are vaccinated are more likely to avoid getting the flu, or if they are infected, the course tends to be much milder.

We also hear about babies who are infected with Whooping cough, usually by a close relative/visitor who doesn’t even realize that they have Whooping cough.  In 2014, the CDC reported that there were 3300 cases of Whooping cough in infants less than 6 months old, and 8 deaths.  A recent report from the CDC in September of 2017 stated that over 90% of severe cases of Whooping cough in infants less than 2 months were protected by the Tdap vaccine. For this reason, it is recommended that anyone who will be around the baby who has not had a Tdap vaccine over the last 10 years get the vaccine several weeks before seeing the baby.  It also is recommended that the pregnant woman get the Tdap vaccine during the third trimester with each pregnancy so that some of the antibodies she makes can cross the placenta and help protect the fetus after it is born.

The only women who should not get vaccinated for influenza and pertussis while they are pregnant are women who have had a severe allergic reaction following a previous vaccine, or if they have been diagnosed with encephalitis within 7 days after a vaccine in the past.

Please discuss this with your obstetrician during your pregnancy or call us to make an appointment at 714-378-5606.  For further information, please see:

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