Vaccines When You’re Pregnant: A Tdap Every Pregnancy?

Are vaccines during pregnancy safe? Should you get another Tdap? Image by zeathiel

Are vaccines during pregnancy safe? Should you get another Tdap? Image by zeathiel

As if the discomfort of pregnancy isn’t enough, now you learn you need vaccinations; not just to protect yourself but to protect this precious life within. Isn’t it enough to follow a good diet and not smoke? If you haven’t kept up with your vaccinations, your doctor or midwife may tell you, no, it isn’t enough. If this is your 2nd or 3rd baby, and you got the Tdap last time you were pregnant, some are saying you need to do it all again. Which shots are really necessary when you’re having a baby?

Vaccines During Pregnancy: Inactive and Considered Safe

Doctors won’t give live vaccines to pregnant women, so you won’t get a Measles vaccine, an MMR shot, or a chicken pox vaccine past four weeks before you are actively trying to get pregnant, if your doctor is aware. Inactive vaccines, however, with no live viruses, may be on your schedule.

  • Hepatitis: Most women of childbearing age have had both hepatitis A and Hepatitis B vaccines if they attended school. If you haven’t gotten these shots, you may need to get them during or after pregnancy.
  • Flu Shot: The CDC recommends the flu shot for pregnant women. Only a short time ago, the swine flu outbreak had pregnant women rushing to their doctors for the inactivated influenza vaccine.
  • Pneumonia: Doctors can also provide the pneumonia vaccine tp pregnant moms.
  • The Tdap vaccine was approved for pregnant women in 2011 in the United States, and in 2012 in the UK. This combination shot includes tetanus, diptheria, and acellular pertussis.
  • Tetanus: The T in the Tdap vaccine refers to inactivated bacteria of tetanus given for wound prophylaxis against “lock jaw” and deep muscular spasms of the body. The shot used to cause more localized bruising and warmth but has since been modified with even fewer side effects.
  • Diptheria: The d in Tdap stands for diptheria, an upper respiratory infection spread by droplets. It can be serious and deadly, but is rare in US due to immunization protection, also known as herd immunity, but if fewer people vaccinate children, there can be a resurgence of the disease when herd immunity fails.
  • Acellular pertussis: The ap in Tdap stands for acellular pertussis, also known as the whooping cough shot. The small “p” signifies a lesser amount of pertussis in the vaccine than that given to a child in the initial series. Pertussis is a contagious disease of cough, vomiting and possible respiratory failure in weak or sickly people and tiny infants. Immunity doesn’t last for life, so if you haven’t had the Tdap recently, some doctors recommend repeating the shot in the last trimester or late in the second trimester.

Vaccinating the pregnant women also protects the fetus and newborn, so doctors encourage Grandparents and family members around the newborn to get the Tdap.

A Tdap for Each Pregnancy: Is it Necessary?

Once the mom-to-be is protected, shouldn’t her newborn also be protected? The 2012 pertussis outbreak numbers exceeded those of 2010. Originally, the shot was to be given to a pregnant woman who then passed her anti-pertussis antibodies to her fetus.   Studies proved the baby was protected better in vitro than by simply protecting the mother after the baby was born, since infants don’t receive their series of shots until 6-8 weeks of age. Newest data from CDC Feb 2013 now shows the protection from mother to baby may be short-lived, so doctors suggest that Mom be re-vaccinated with each pregnancy, and that vaccination is best between weeks 27 to 36 if possible. The CDC, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) have all accepted these standards. Consult your doctor to find out if additional immunization is right for you.


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U.S. CDC. Updated Recommendations for Use of Tdap in Pregnant Women and People who have Close Contact. (2011). MMWR October 21, 2011 / 60(41);1424-1426. Accessed May 17, 2013.

Neale,T. Give Tdap During Every Pregnancy (2013). Medpage Today. Accessed May 17, 2013.

U.S. CDC. Updated Recommendations for use of Tdap in Pregnant Women. (2013). MMWR 62(07);131-135 Accessed May 17, 2013.

Terranella A, Asay G, Messonnier M, Clark T, Liang J. Preventing infant pertussis: a decision analysis comparing prenatal vaccination to cocooning. (2011). Presented at the 49th Infectious Diseases Society of America Annual Meeting, Boston, MA. Accessed May 17, 2013.

Healy CM, Rench MA, Baker CJ. Importance of timing of maternal Tdap immunization and protection of young infants. (2013). Clin Infect Dis 2013;56:539–44. Accessed May 17, 2013.

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