Some vaccines are safe to have while pregnant and some are not. The general rule is to avoid live vaccines while pregnant. Live vaccines contain the virus which can be transmitted to the fetus via the placenta and prove harmful to the fetus. In principle you must postpone plans to conceive for at least 3 months after being vaccinated.
It is preferred that all vaccinations be carried out prior to pregnancy. Vaccinations in pregnancy are most harmful in the first trimester. Some vaccines are considered ‘safe’ during pregnancy because they are made out of inactive or killed viruses and can be given if the mother has a chronic illness or is at high risk because of lifestyle.
Vaccines 'safe' in Pregnancy
- Tetanus and Diphtheria
- Hepatitis A & Hepatitis B
- Flu Shot
- Varicella zoster immune globulin (VZIG)
Vaccines best avoided in Pregnancy
- Measles and mumps. Immunizations against these should be avoided during pregnancy. Suspected cases should be given the shots postpartum.
- Varicella (chicken pox)
- Rubella. The vaccination should not be administered during pregnancy. It is routinely given to women not immune to rubella after delivery.
- Yellow fever. The vaccine should only be administered if exposure to the disease is inevitable.
- Hepatitis A & B vaccines which are safe during pregnancy should be given if you have not been vaccinated before and if there are compelling grounds for its administration. Working pregnant women holding jobs in healthcare, childcare or hold a job that entails frequent traveling to developing countries need to be especially vigilant.
- If the mother has a lung condition e.g. asthma, the pneumococcal vaccine which is genetically engineered helps prevents some forms of pneumonia.
- Flu shot is very safe as it is made of inactive viruses and egg whites. This shot is recommended during the flu season because pregnant women are more prone to complications from the flu than non-pregnant women (and if you are not allergic to egg white). Flu shot is effective against the more dangerous strains of flu and not the commonplace bugs like the cold. It is best taken past the third month of pregnancy during the flu season.
- The vaccinations for tetanus and diphtheria are usually given in childhood but if necessary women can be vaccinated during pregnancy or given booster shots during pregnancy as they do not carry fetal risk
- The cholera vaccination is best avoided and given only if necessary since it causes fever
- Varicella vaccination before pregnancy is necessary. If you become exposed to chicken pox while pregnant, an injection, known as VZIG made from the plasma of healthy volunteer blood donors with high levels of antibody to the virus will be administered.
It isn't possible to avoid all exposure to infections but try reducing the risk of infections by avoiding people or children with known infections, or places where disease are prevalent. If a pregnant woman becomes infected or if exposure is unavoidable, an evaluation must be made to weigh the disease against the potential risk of vaccination before any action is taken by the doctor.