Should I avoid vaccines when I'm pregnant?

You shouldn't avoid vaccines when you are pregnant. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) has specific vaccine recommendations for pregnant and breastfeeding women. The committee notes that there is no evidence of risk to your developing baby if you are vaccinated with an inactivated viral or bacterial vaccine while pregnant. In either case, the committee notes, the "benefits of vaccinating pregnant women usually outweigh the potential risks when the likelihood of disease exposure is high, when infection would pose a risk to the mother or fetus, and when the vaccine is unlikely to cause harm."
Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
In general yes (see below) but and this is a big BUT so read on, there are some vaccines whose benefit is so much greater than risk that you should definitely get or at least consider adding on when pregnant -- just like you’d definitely take a prenatal multi every day (they decrease childhood birth defects by over 80%, and even decrease childhood cancers up to age 6 by 65%, and may make you child’s IQ a few points higher), you should definitely add on these vaccines -- the inactivated flu vaccine (if flu season is here or coming) and the whooping cough vaccine in your third trimester (the latter is known as Tdap). You pass some of the protection against these diseases to your baby until your baby can get her own shots after her immune system has developed…both the flu and whopping cough are much more serious for babies. (In addition, all family members and caregivers should be immunized against Tdap).
However, for most vaccines other than inactivated flu and whopping cough, getting them at least 1 month prior to conception is best. When you're in an immuno-suppressed state (as you are when you're pregnant), getting those vaccines may compromise your immune system further. The best course of action when it comes to vaccines is to get updated on your immunizations three or more months before you get pregnant. If you will be exposed to hepatitis B or have it, your baby should receive specific treatment to avoid chronic hepatitis B soon after birth. If you are planning on going overseas during pregnancy, get vaccinations appropriate to diseases seen in those countries that are rarely seen in North America three months prior to pregnancy.
So to summarize, during pregnancy, we recommend that you avoid all vaccines if you can -- except for the inactivated flu vaccine and that whopping cough vaccine (Tdap). Those are the two exceptions -- current data suggest much more benefit than risk to you and your baby from those flu and whopping cough vaccinations during pregnancy (like prenatal vitamins with DHA).

Continue Learning about Vaccines & Immunizations

Vaccines & Immunizations

Vaccines & Immunizations

Vaccines are commonly given to children in the form of a shot to help prevent serious diseases like measles and mumps. Vaccines are developed using either dead strains of a disease, weakened strains, or strains of a different dise...

ase. As adults, we receive flu vaccines or may need a booster of childhood vaccines to retain immunity. Travelers may receive vaccines either as a condition of entry to a country, or on recommendation of health officials. Generally there is little or no reaction to a vaccine, but in some cases the vaccine may cause an allergic reaction or a temporary, mild illness. Some vaccines are not safe for pregnant women, so it’s important to check with a healthcare professional.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.