What vaccinations are recommended if I'm pregnant?

Key points about pregnancy and immunisation

  • During pregnancy, it is important you are protected against infections and illnesses that can be harmful to you and your baby.
  • The best way to be sure of this protection is to get the recommended vaccinations at the appropriate time.
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Video: Immunisation during pregnancy

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(The Immunistion Advisory Centre, NZ, 2018)

You can get a COVID-19 vaccine at any stage of your pregnancy.

If you’re trying for a baby or pregnant, you can receive the Pfizer vaccine (Comirnaty). The Pfizer vaccine will not affect your genes or fertility. The mRNA from the vaccine does not enter the nucleus of any cells, which is where your DNA is.

Read more about COVID-19 vaccination and pregnancy

You can get the flu vaccine at any stage of your pregnancy.

Catching the flu during pregnancy increases your chances for serious problems such as pneumonia, respiratory failure, stillbirth, and premature labour and delivery. Getting the flu vaccine is the best way to protect yourself and your baby during pregnancy and for several months after birth from flu-related complications.

Vaccination anytime during the pregnancy stimulates the mother's immune system to produce antibodies, reducing the risk of the mother getting the flu. The antibodies also pass across the placenta into your baby's bloodstream, protecting your baby from the flu for up to 6 months after birth. Recent research in Aotearoa New Zealand found women who were immunised during their pregnancy had lower risks of having a baby born early or with low birthweight, and had lower risk of a stillbirth. Read more about the vaccination during pregnancy study.(external link)

Influenza vaccine can be given to women at any stage during their pregnancy. Read more about the flu vaccine.

Video: Influenza - Flu protection in pregnancy

In this video Ali Just, an intensive care nurse and mum, tells us why she had the influenza immunisation while pregnant with her second child Caitlin. This video may take a few moments to load.

(Ministry of Health, NZ, 2013)

You can get your whooping cough vaccine from 16 weeks gestation.

You should get a booster pertussis vaccine at each pregnancy because protection against pertussis decreases over time, even if your pregnancies are only a year or two apart

Pertussis vaccine protects against the bacterial infection whooping cough (also called pertussis) that causes uncontrollable coughing. Complications can be serious, including pneumonia and seizures.

You should have the pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine in the second or third trimester of each pregnancy – preferably within the second trimester, from 16 weeks, but at least 2 weeks before the birth. This gives enough time for your immune system to produce antibody protection against pertussis (whooping cough) and for high levels of antibodies to pass through the placenta into your baby to provide your baby with its own temporary protection against severe disease. 

Babies less than 6 months of age have the highest risk of hospitalisation and death from whooping cough. Although babies receive vaccinations against whooping cough at 6 weeks, 3 months and 5 months of age, they only have full protection after the third dose. 

Vaccination with the pertussis vaccine during pregnancy is the best way to protect newborns against whooping cough. The vaccination offers protection in 2 ways:

  • It stimulates the mother's immune system to produce antibodies, which reduces the risk of the mother getting the disease and therefore reduce the risk of her passing it onto her baby.
  • The antibodies also pass across the placenta into the baby's bloodstream, protecting the baby from severe whooping cough for the first few weeks after birth. Your baby should then be vaccinated themselves at the age of 6 weeks.

Whooping cough vaccine currently comes combined with tetanus and diphtheria vaccines (called Boostrix®). Read more about the pertussis vaccine

Some vaccines are best not given during pregnancy. These include the MMR, chickenpox and pneumococcal vaccines. It is best to wait 4 weeks (1 month) after having these vaccines before trying to get pregnant.

Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR)

Rubella infection during pregnancy can cause serious birth defects. If you were born after 1968, you may need a booster vaccination of MMR for full protection against measles, mumps and rubella. Check with your doctor. It is best to wait 4 weeks (1 month) after having this vaccine before trying to get pregnant. Read more about MMR vaccine.

Chickenpox (varicella)

Chickenpox infection during pregnancy can cause severe illness in you and your unborn baby. A simple blood test can check whether you have immunity to this infection. If you are not protected, ask your doctor for 2 doses of the vaccine for full immunity. It is best to wait 4 weeks (1 month) after having this vaccine before trying to get pregnant. Read more about chickenpox vaccine.

Pneumococcal 

Pneumococcal vaccine is used to prevent infection that is caused by a bacteria called Pneumococcus. This ‘bug’ is easily spread through the air, when someone with the bacteria coughs, sneezes or even talks. It can also be spread by touching objects that have been coughed or sneezed on by someone with the bacteria. Pneumococcal disease can range from mild infections, such as ear or sinus infections, to serious, life-threatening infections like pneumonia, meningitis or blood infection. Read more about pneumococcal vaccine

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Credits: Healthify Editorial Team. Healthify is brought to you by Health Navigator Charitable Trust.

Reviewed by: Dr Jeremy Steinberg, FRNZCGP, Auckland

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