The list of things you’re supposed to avoid when you’re pregnant (like I am) is comically long. Hot baths. Alcohol. Soft cheeses. Tuna and lunch meat. Sprouts.
So it felt a little odd to be offering up my arm for a vaccine a few weeks ago, at the start of my third trimester. Really? No ibuprofen or Pepto, but yes vaccines?
The shot was to protect against whooping cough, among other things, and doctors at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists or ACOG recommend it for all women, in every pregnancy. And, there are a few other shots that are advised for pregnant women, depending on your circumstances — and a few you’re not supposed to get.
For the first time, the group has released a one-page immunization guide for pregnant women that spells all of this out.
It’s basically like the vaccine schedule for children you might see in the pediatrician’s office, but much simpler. The goal is for it to be easily posted in doctors’ offices, “so that it becomes more automatic and part of everyday prenatal care,” says Dr. Laura Riley, one of the guide’s authors and chair of the ACOG immunization work group.
What’s recommended: An infant lifesaver
The two vaccines most pregnant women should get are the flu shot and the tetanus, diphtheria, and acellular pertussis vaccine or Tdap.
The flu shot is, of course, given seasonally. It’s recommended because women’s immune systems are affected by pregnancy, and they’re more likely to get seriously sick from influenza.
Tdap is a bit different — it protects newborns against pertussis or whooping cough. It’s a very contagious disease especially for infants and it can make them seriously ill. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, half of babies who get pertussis end up in the hospital, and some die.