Pregnancy

Vaccines are an important part of a healthy pregnancy. They help protect you and your baby against serious diseases.

Some diseases are particularly harmful for pregnant women and their babies and can cause birth defects, premature birth, miscarriage and death. Many of these diseases can be prevented through vaccination.

It’s important to know which vaccines you need before, during, and after pregnancy.

Before pregnancy

It’s best to make sure all of your routine vaccines are up to date before becoming pregnant. This is important because some vaccines cannot be given during pregnancy but provide important protection. For example, the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine should not be given during pregnancy, but rubella infection during pregnancy can cause miscarriage and serious birth defects. If you are planning to become pregnant, talk to your health care provider about vaccines you may need.

It’s also a good idea to make sure that everyone in your household is up to date with their vaccines. This will help protect your baby by lowering the chance of household members getting a disease and passing it onto your baby. This is especially important because babies don’t start getting vaccines until they are two months old and most vaccines require more than one dose. This means that newborn babies are especially vulnerable to disease. Even though you may not be able to receive certain vaccines while pregnant, it is safe for others in your household to receive routine vaccines during your pregnancy.

Flu Shots During Pregnancy

During pregnancy

Vaccines recommended during pregnancy:

Influenza vaccine

Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommends that all pregnant women at any stage of pregnancy, get the influenza (flu) vaccine to protect themselves and their newborns during influenza season (usually October to April each year). Pregnant women should receive the inactivated influenza vaccine (given by injection).

What is influenza?

Influenza, often called the flu, is an infection of the upper airway caused by the influenza virus. Influenza spreads easily from person to person through coughing, sneezing, or having face-to-face contact. For healthy pregnant women, influenza can cause serious illness and can lead to hospitalization and even death.

Why is the influenza vaccine recommended during pregnancy?

Influenza (flu) can be very serious for pregnant women. Normal changes that happen in your body during pregnancy, like changes in your immune system, make you more likely to get really sick from influenza and to be hospitalized. The influenza vaccine is recommended and provided for free for pregnant women during the influenza season (usually from October to April each year). Getting the influenza vaccine during influenza season will help protect you and your baby.

Influenza can also be harmful for your baby. When you get the influenza vaccine during pregnancy, you can pass protective antibodies to your baby that can help protect your baby for several months after birth. This is important because babies can get really sick from influenza but can’t get the vaccine until they are six months old. If you did not receive the influenza vaccine during pregnancy, you should be given it as soon as possible post-partum, preferably before discharge from hospital.

What is the best time to get the influenza vaccine?

The influenza (flu) vaccine is recommended and provided for free for pregnant women during the influenza season (usually from October to April each year). For best protection, you should get immunized as soon as possible during influenza season.

Is the influenza vaccine safe in pregnancy?

Pregnant women should receive the inactivated influenza vaccine (given by injection). There is good evidence to show the inactivated influenza (flu) vaccine is safe for pregnant women and their babies. The live-attenuated influenza vaccine (given as a nasal spray) should not be given during pregnancy, as it has not been proven to be safe.

Where can I get the influenza vaccine?

During influenza season (usually from October to April each year), the influenza vaccine is available from health units, some doctor’s offices and most pharmacies. Talk to your health care provider for more information.

Pertussis vaccine 

Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommends that all pregnant women get the pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine in every pregnancy to help protect the baby after birth. The pertussis vaccine is given as the tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis (Tdap) vaccine.

What is pertussis?

Pertussis is a serious infection of the airways caused by the pertussis bacteria. It can cause complications such as pneumonia (an infection of the lungs), seizures, brain damage, and death. Pertussis is most dangerous in babies.

Why is the pertussis vaccine recommended during pregnancy?

Babies don’t start getting the pertussis vaccine until they are two months old. The best way to protect your baby from pertussis and its complications during their first two months of life is to get the vaccine yourself. When you get the pertussis vaccine, your body makes protective antibodies. Antibodies are proteins made by the body to help fight off diseases. You can pass some of these antibodies on to your baby through your placenta before birth. These antibodies will help protect your baby from pertussis during their first couple months of life. This is when your baby is most at risk of getting pertussis and of having serious complications from it but is too young to get vaccinated.

What is the best time to get the pertussis vaccine?

The best time to get the pertussis vaccine is between 27 and 32 weeks of pregnancy. This allows time for you to pass the protective antibodies on to your baby. However, the vaccine may be given earlier and can be provided up until delivery. Talk to your health care provider about timing.

Is the pertussis vaccine safe in pregnancy?

The pertussis vaccine is very safe for pregnant women and their babies.

Where can I get the pertussis vaccine?

The pertussis vaccine is not currently provided for free to pregnant women in B.C. It can be purchased from most pharmacies and travel clinics. Talk to your health care provider for more information.

Vaccines that may be recommended during pregnancy:

In certain situations, other vaccines may be recommended during pregnancy. 

Some examples:

  • The hepatitis B vaccine is recommended for pregnant women whose job, lifestyle or health history puts them at high risk of becoming infected with hepatitis B. Your health care provider will let you know if you need the hepatitis B vaccine.
  • The hepatitis A, meningococcal, and polio vaccines may be recommended for pregnant women travelling to areas of the world where these diseases are common. Tell your health care provider if you are travelling outside Canada during your pregnancy.

Safety of vaccines during pregnancy

Inactivated vaccines are generally safe in pregnancy. However, live vaccines (for example, the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) and the chickenpox (varicella) vaccines) should generally not be given during pregnancy because they have not been proven to be safe for pregnant women and their babies. 

Your health care provider can tell you which vaccines are recommended for you and which vaccines are safe to get during pregnancy.

After pregnancy

If you didn’t catch up on certain vaccines before or during your pregnancy, it’s important that you get them as soon as possible after your baby is born. This will help protect you and your baby, by lowering the chance of you getting a vaccine-preventable disease and passing it onto your baby. It will also ensure you’re protected in future pregnancies. It’s safe to receive vaccines right after birth, even if you are breastfeeding.