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Whooping cough vaccine for pregnant women

Pregnant women in the third trimester can receive free whooping cough vaccine to protect their newborn baby from whooping cough, in the first few months of life.

Why is my baby at risk of whooping cough

Babies less than 3 months of age are at the highest risk of infection and death before they are fully vaccinated. The whooping cough vaccine is offered to babies (in a combination vaccine) at 6 weeks, 4 and 6 months of age.

Babies are too young to be immunised against whooping cough before 6 weeks of age

Whooping cough

Whooping cough (also known as pertussis) is a highly contagious infection of the respiratory tract. It starts with cold like symptoms and fever before developing into a dry irritating cough. In babies, coughing episodes can have a “whoop” sound and can result in babies turning blue and stopping breathing.

Whooping cough is spread by coughing and sneezing or direct contact with infected nose and mouth secretions.

For more information on whooping cough, see the whooping cough - including signs, symptoms and treatment page

How to protect your baby

Pregnant women can help protect their newborn and themselves by getting immunised during the third trimester of each pregnancy. Protective maternal antibodies will pass through the placenta. This means your newborn baby will be protected against whooping cough in the early weeks of life before routine childhood immunisations start.

The best time to be immunised

It is highly recommended and safe to receive the whooping cough vaccine between 28 to 32 weeks of your pregnancy, but it can be given at any time during the third trimester.

The whooping cough vaccine should be given in each pregnancy (even pregnancies close together) to give the best protection for each baby.

If I have had whooping cough disease, do I still need the vaccine?

Yes. Immunity from the disease is not lifelong and wears off over time.

Others recommended to receive the vaccine

Anyone who will have close contact with your baby should be immunised. This includes fathers, grandparents, carers and any other adult or child who will have close contact with your baby in the early weeks of life. They should have the vaccine at least 2 weeks before beginning close contact with your baby.

Where can I get immunised?

The whooping cough vaccine is free for pregnant women in their third trimester. Speak to your doctor or midwife.

Other family members or close contacts can visit their GP for a prescription.

For further information on immunisation providers, see the Immunisation services page.

Is the vaccine safe for me and my unborn baby?

The whooping cough vaccine is highly recommended and very safe to be given to pregnant women. This vaccine has been given to pregnant women in the UK with no additional risk to the unborn baby.

For more information on the vaccine and possible side effects see diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough combination vaccines page. 

Further information

For further information on the vaccines, contact the SA Health's Immunisation Section on 1300 232 272, Monday to Friday 8.30 am to 5.00 pm

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