Vaccines and pregnancy: What you need to know

October 04, 2021
pregnant patient vaccine
By Regence

You’ve decided it’s time and you’re trying to get pregnant. That probably means you’re prepared with at-home pregnancy tests and you’re regularly checking for that exciting result. Or maybe the newest addition to your family is already on the way. Congratulations if so!

No doubt a lot of preparation goes on before welcoming a little one into the world. However, many people may be unaware of one essential step — vaccinations before and during pregnancy.  

“Vaccines are really important,” says Dr. Drew Oliveira, a family practice physician and executive medical director at Regence. “They’re available to help you have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.”

Dr. Oliveira notes that vaccinations before pregnancy can prevent miscarriage and birth defects related to certain diseases. He joins other health experts in recommending three vaccinations that are important to get at least one month before becoming pregnant:

  • Chickenpox — this childhood disease can be serious in adults. If bloodwork shows you’re not immune, ask your doctor about the varicella vaccine.
  • MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) — have bloodwork done to check your immunity before getting pregnant. If your antibodies are low, a booster shot may be needed.
  • HPV (human papillomavirus) — causes more than 90% of cervical cancers. This vaccination is  most effective when given at ages 11 or 12 and is recommended for women and men by age 26.    

Vaccine safety during pregnancy

Extensive studies of millions of women confirm that vaccines during pregnancy are safe and help to protect expectant moms and their unborn babies. Those who are immunized against several life-threatening diseases will pass along antibodies to their newborns, who will be better protected while they’re too young to be vaccinated.

  • Flu shot — getting the flu during pregnancy can lead to serious complications and preterm birth.
    • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends getting a flu shot in the third trimester if the flu season is upcoming.
    • The nasal flu vaccine is not a good option during pregnancy because it contains a live, but weakened, virus.
    • Experts warn this year’s flu season may be more widespread because many have been isolated from germs during the pandemic. So, get your flu shot by the end of October.
  • Tdap vaccine — this shot immunizes women and their babies against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough). It is important to get during every pregnancy.

Equally important right now is getting vaccinated against COVID-19.

  • A growing number of studies show that pregnant women and their unborn babies are at higher risk for severe complications from COVID-19.
  • Based on how the human body responds to vaccines, leading experts believe they are unlikely to pose a risk during pregnancy.
  • In fact, initial data finds that COVID-19 vaccines have not caused infertility, miscarriage or complications while pregnant or during delivery.
  • Per the CDC, current research shows that women who received COVID-19 mRNA vaccines during pregnancy passed antibodies to their babies, which protect them from the virus after birth.

Increasing evidence shows that COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy is safe and can potentially save the lives of expecting women and their babies. Talk to your doctor if you have questions or concerns.

Regence health plans fully cover the cost of getting a COVID-19 shot and most vaccinations at 100% when members see an in-network provider. Learn more by signing in to regence.com and reviewing your health plan benefits. Watch the video below from Dr. Oliveira for more vaccine information.

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