The information provided below is for readers based in the United States of America. Readers outside of the United States of America should seek the information from local sources.

What is poliomyelitis vaccine?

Poliomyelitis (“polio”) vaccine is a shot that is administered to train the immune system to recognize and defend against poliovirus, the virus that causes poliomyelitis (polio for short). Most commonly, people in North America are given inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV), which is administered as four injections spread over several months. There is also an oral polio vaccine (OPV) that has not been used in the US since 2000, although it is still used in some places. Polio has been eradicated in the United States and throughout the developed world and most people have been immunized as children. However, if you are pregnant and have never been vaccinated and you are located, or will be traveling, in an area where polio is still present, you must get vaccinated. 

What is poliomyelitis vaccine given to prevent or treat?

Polio vaccine is given to prevent polio, a disease that results from poliovirus attacking the nervous system. Before the vaccine was in wide use, this virus was devastating, and still is in developing parts of the world. It can kill through paralysis of breathing muscles, and it can leave survivors disabled. US President Franklin Roosevelt is the most famous person to have been disabled by polio. Although the disease has been eradicated in the western world, vaccination must continue, due to many people traveling and the fact that the virus has not been eradicated from all of humanity. We are getting very close to eradication, however.

How does polio vaccine vaccine work?

IPV is an inactivated viral vaccine. As such, it works by presenting your immune system with proteins that normally are present on the outside of virus particles, but without any live virus. As a result, your immune system learns to recognize the poliovirus and defend against it.

If I receive polio vaccine during pregnancy, can it harm my baby?

Although there is a theoretical risk to the developing baby, there is no evidence that IPV is actually dangerous. While OPV has live components in it, it is not given anymore in the US and most other developed countries.

If I receive polio vaccine and become pregnant, what should I do?

Continue with your pregnancy as normal, as you will have been given IPV, which studies have not proven harmful to the mother, or baby. 

If I am given polio vaccine, can I safely breastfeed my baby?

Yes. The IPV has been demonstrated to be safe to nursing newborns. 

If I am given polio vaccine, will it be more difficult to get pregnant?

Polio vaccine should not affect your fertility negatively.

If I am given polio vaccine, what should I know?

The IPV vaccine has been demonstrated as being safe during breastfeeding, no studies have been able to show that it is harmful during pregnancy, and the OPV vaccine is not given in most developed areas.

If I am taking any vaccine, what should I know?

You may find Pregistry's expert report about vaccines during pregnancy here, reports about a variety of vaccines here, and reports about the various medications used for infections here.   Pregistry also offers blog posts about vaccines here. Additional information can also be found in the resources at the end of this report. 

Resources for polio vaccine in pregnancy:

For more information about polio vaccine during and after pregnancy, contact http://www.womenshealth.gov/ (800-994-9662 [TDD: 888-220-5446]) or check the following links:

Read the whole report
General information

It is very common for women to worry about having a miscarriage or giving birth to a child with a birth defect while they are pregnant. Many decisions that women make about their health during pregnancy are made with these concerns in mind.

For many women these concerns are very real. As many as 1 in 5 pregnancies end in a miscarriage, and 1 in 33 babies are born with a birth defect. These rates are considered the background population risk, which means they do not take into consideration anything about the health of the mom, the medications she is taking, or the family history of the mom or the baby’s dad. A number of different things can increase these risks, including taking certain medications during pregnancy.

It is known that most medications, including over-the-counter medications, taken during pregnancy do get passed on to the baby. Fortunately, most medicines are not harmful to the baby and can be safely taken during pregnancy. But there are some that are known to be harmful to a baby’s normal development and growth, especially when they are taken during certain times of the pregnancy. Because of this, it is important to talk with your doctor or midwife about any medications you are taking, ideally before you even try to get pregnant.

If a doctor other than the one caring for your pregnancy recommends that you start a new medicine while you are pregnant, it is important that you let them know you are pregnant.

If you do need to take a new medication while pregnant, it is important to discuss the possible risks the medicine may pose on your pregnancy with your doctor or midwife. They can help you understand the benefits and the risks of taking the medicine.

Ultimately, the decision to start, stop, or change medications during pregnancy is up to you to make, along with input from your doctor or midwife. If you do take medications during pregnancy, be sure to keep track of all the medications you are taking.