Vaccines During Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

pregnant and woman and nurseCongratulations on your pregnancy! You're eating right, getting extra rest and taking your prenatal vitamins. After all, you want to do everything you can to ensure a healthy baby! But have you given any thought to protecting yourself and your baby against infectious diseases—like seasonal influenza.

It's important to consider vaccination part of your prenatal care. That's why the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) has specific 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.

This flu season, one vaccine is designed to protect you against three strains of the flu virus, including the H1N1 flu virus. The CDC recommends that everyone six months and older be vaccinated against the flu.

The CDC also identifies four safe and effective optional vaccines for pregnant women, if you have been or could be exposed to any of the following bacterial and viral diseases: hepatitis B, tetanus-diphtheria, meningococcal and rabies.

So what makes the flu vaccines so important? Well, you're much more likely to be exposed to influenza in any given year than meningitis or rabies. Plus, pregnancy-related changes in your immune and respiratory systems mean that you are at higher risk for flu-related complications. In fact, if you get the flu while you're pregnant, you're more likely to be hospitalized with complications. Another good reason to get vaccinated against the flu is that a recent study found that your vaccine could protect your baby during his or her first six months—when infants can't receive a flu vaccine, yet when they are very vulnerable to flu-related complications.

Make Flu Vaccines a Family Affair

You're not the only one who needs a vaccine. The people around you should also get flu vaccines this season. That reduces the risk that they'll catch the flu and bring it home to you or your newborn.