Are Vaccines safe for Baby. Vaccinations In Pregnancy.

Are Vaccines safe during pregnancy?

Pregnancy is a scary time. Whether it’s your first or your fifth, nothing can be as confusing and elating as pregnancy and having a baby. Health around pregnancy is a conundrum, but we are here to help you. Should you be worried about Vaccines during pregnancy? Are they safe?

For this article, we have referred primarily to the Centre of Disease Control (CDC.) In cases of ambiguity we have consulted peer-reviewed research.

Are Vaccines safe for Baby?

Reviewing current evidence and CDC guidelines paint a mixed picture.  The risk to the  developing ‘fetus’ (the term used for a baby growing in the womb) is only theoretical at best.  There is currently no research evidence of Vaccines infecting babies, but some should be avoided as they have other effects.  Some specific viruses, like Human Papilloma Virus (a family of viruses that can cause warts) can haveteratogenic’ effects, i.e they can interfere with babies development.

Some vaccines are ‘activated’ (contain a live virus) and some ‘inactivated’ (contain a dead version.) Both vaccines work via similar mechanisms, given the body a dry run at fighting the virus. By exposing the body to weak forms of attackers, the body learns to fight back.

Let us take you through them step by step.

Vaccines that are ‘safe’

Influenza (inactivated), Polio, Tdap (Tetanus, Diphtheria and Petussis) are all signed off by the CDC. Hepatitis A, B,  and Meningococcus require a careful consideration of risk vs benefit.

In the case of Hepatitis A, no reasonable trial has been undertaken to estimate risk. However the CDC states that the risk of infection to baby is low as the vaccine itself is formed of ‘inactivated’ virus. There is limited data claming that vaccines with Hepatitis B are safe, and recommended in women who are high risk of catching the Virus through other means.

Menningcoccus is more complicated. Different forms have different rules. Meningitis A,C,W or Y, as well as Meningitis MPSV4 are considered safe. Menigitis B is under investigation, but the CDC states that if the benefit of vaccination outweighs risk, then it should be preferred.

Vaccines to avoid

Influenza (activated or LAIV), Human Papilloma Virus, MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella), Varicella and Zoster.  The reasons these particular vaccines are not recommended vary, but include their effects on the development of baby, adverse reactions and infection.

Influenza (activated/LAIV) are active live forms of the virus and not recommended.

MMR is a live form of a virus and carries a risk of teratogenicity and the risk of Congenital Rubella Syndrome.  It also carries a risk of preterm birth and low birth weight. Women at risk of Rubella are advised to talk to their healthcare provider.

Varicella vaccination is not recommended as there is currently not enough evidence to make a decision. Zoster is contraindicated.


There are a number of Vaccines where there is simply not enough research to form a reliable conclusion. These include PCV13 and PPSV23

Making your decision

The above information is complex, and any decision about vaccinations should be made hand in hand with your doctor.  Mothers to be are suscpetible to common infections, and sometimes the decision to vaccinate must be made in the mothers interest. In each case, the risk of infection should be weighed against the risk of side effects, which your doctor can help with.

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Any opinions above are the author’s alone and may not represent those of his/her affiliations. Any comment is based on the best available evidence at the time of writing.  All data is based on externally validated studies unless expressed otherwise. Novel data is representative of the sample surveyed. An online recommendation is no substitute for seeing your own doctor and should not be taken as medical advice. 

Sources and Further Reading

Image courtes of Flickr. Image has been resized.  

About drbmjanaway (16 Articles)
Doctor and author with an interest in neurology, evolutionary biology and public health communication

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