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Home Topics Infectious Diseases Infections A-Z Vaccine in pregnancy surveillance ›  Background information on the safety of human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines given in pregnancy

Background information on the safety of human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines given in pregnancy

1. What is the risk if you have HPV vaccine while you are pregnant or shortly before falling pregnant?

HPV vaccine is an inactivated vaccine, which means that it doesn't contain any live organisms. Since inactivated vaccines cannot replicate they cannot cause infection in either the mother or her baby. There is no known risk associated with giving such vaccines during pregnancy or whilst breast-feeding [1].  However, as a matter of caution, HPV vaccine is not advised in pregnancy, and it is for the same reason that we wish to follow all women who are given the vaccine by accident while pregnant.

Limited data is available on using HPV vaccine in pregnant women because they were specifically excluded from clinical trials of HPV vaccine: this is standard practice. Despite safeguards some women were inadvertently immunised whilst pregnant or shortly before becoming pregnant. Consequently during clinical trials, 210 women received cervarix vaccine (used routinely in the UK) between 45 days before and 30 days after their last menstrual period and 114 Women received Gardasil vaccine (also available in the UK) within 30 days of their last menstrual period. No specific safety concerns have been identified for the outcome of pregnancy or for fetal development in the women who were given either HPV vaccine when compared with women who received placebo/control vaccines. 

2. What should happen if HPV vaccine is given to a pregnant woman?

If a woman finds out she is pregnant after she has started a course of HPV vaccine, she should discuss this with her GP or midwife who can then report her case to the Health Protection Agency. There is no evidence that it will harm her or her baby and there is no reason to believe that the pregnancy cannot continue safely. Once the woman has completed her pregnancy, she can finish the three-dose course of HPV vaccine.

3. Why are you following up women who are given HPV vaccine whilst pregnant or shortly before becoming pregnant?

Due to the relatively limited experience of using HPV vaccine in pregnant women to date, it is important to follow-up women who have been given the vaccine during pregnancy. The UK Vaccine in Pregnancy surveillance programme is run by the Immunisation Department of the Health Protection Agency Centre for Infections The objectives of the UK Vaccine in Pregnancy surveillance are to compile additional information on women who are immunised with specified vaccines whilst pregnant. These data will be used to help better inform pregnant women who are inadvertently immunised, their families and health professionals who are responsible for their care.

4. Who are you following up?

We are following up women who have received HPV vaccine from 60 days prior to their last menstrual period or at any time in pregnancy.


[1] Atkinson WL, Kroger AL and Pickering LK.  Section 1: General aspects of vaccination, Part 7: General immunization practices. In: Plotkin S, Orenstein W and Offit P (eds) Vaccines. 5th edition. Philadelphia: WB Saunders Company, 2008: pp 83-109.

Last reviewed: 4 May 2010