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Pregnancy and immunisation

It is important for pregnant women and those planning pregnancy to be protected from vaccine preventable diseases which if contracted when pregnant, can cause birth defects and miscarriage. Immunisations offer protection for both the mother and baby before, during and after pregnancy.

Are vaccines safe during pregnancy?

Vaccines, like any other medication, can have side effects. Most reactions are mild, short lasting and do not require special treatment.

Whooping cough and flu vaccinations have good evidence of safety and effectiveness during pregnancy and are recommended in many other countries. In Australia recent studies of pregnant women show over 70% receive the whooping cough vaccine and over 60% receive the flu vaccine.

If you would like further information about possible side effects following immunisation, speak to your doctor, midwife, immunisation provider or refer to the After vaccination information brochure (PDF 154KB)

Anyone who will have close contact with the baby in the early weeks of life should also be immunised. This includes fathers, grandparents, carers and any other adults or children in the household.

Before pregnancy

It is important to make sure immunisations are up to date. A blood test can be done to check protection against some of the vaccine preventable diseases.

The planning stages of pregnancy are a good time to remind other family members (partners, grandparents, brothers, and sisters) and anyone who will be caring a young baby to check immunisations are up-to-date.

Usually, any vaccine can be given before pregnancy. Pregnancy should be avoided for 28 days after having a live vaccine such as the measles, mumps, rubella vaccine or the chickenpox vaccine.

To help protect babies before and after birth, both parents should be protected against the following diseases before pregnancy:

Measles, mumps and rubella

Rubella (German measles) infection in a pregnant woman can cause serious birth defects for the unborn baby. To be protected against these diseases two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine are recommended.

Chickenpox  

Infection in pregnant women can cause serious illness and can cause birth defects in the unborn baby or severe chickenpox in the newborn baby.
Two doses of the chickenpox vaccine are recommended for adults who have not had chickenpox disease confirmed by a doctor.

Remember - avoid getting pregnant for 28 days after having a MMR or a Chickenpox vaccine.

Hepatitis B  

A blood test can screen and check for protection against hepatitis B. A full course of the hepatitis B vaccine before becoming pregnant can offer protection from hepatitis B during pregnancy. Pregnant women who have hepatitis B infection can pass the virus to the newborn at or around the time of birth.

Pneumococcal  

Some people are at higher risk of pneumococcal infection which can result in a number of diseases including infection of the lungs (pneumonia), the covering of the brain and spinal cord (meningitis) or the blood (bacteraemia). Those at higher risk include people who identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, people who smoke or have conditions such as diabetes or chronic heart, lung or kidney disease. High risk people should be vaccinated against pneumococcal disease.

Translated resources

A fact sheet on immunisation and pregnancy is available in the following languages:

Further information

For more information about immunisations, advice on future vaccinations or to discuss any concerns you may have, contact your doctor, immunisation provider or SA Health's Immunisation Section on 1300 232 272.

During pregnancy

Whooping cough (pertussis) and flu (influenza) are highly contagious diseases. Immunisation is recommended and very safe to be given during pregnancy to protect both the mother and the baby during pregnancy and in the first few months after birth.

Whooping cough (pertussis)

Babies under six months of age are too young to be fully immunised against whooping cough and are at higher risk of severe disease. Babies with whooping cough are more likely to be hospitalised and may die. Half of the babies less than three months of age with whooping cough have been infected by family members, particularly their parents.

Pregnant women can help protect themselves and their newborn from whooping cough by getting immunised during pregnancy. The best time to have the vaccine is from 28 to 32 weeks of pregnancy, although it can be given any time in the third trimester. 

The whooping cough and flu vaccines are free for pregnant women. Speak to your doctor, midwife or health worker about how to get immunised.
For further information see Immunisations during pregnancy (PDF 146KB)

Protective antibodies will develop to protect the mother and be passed from the mother to the unborn baby. The whooping cough vaccine should be given in each pregnancy (even pregnancies close together) to give the best protection for each baby. Babies will have protection until at least six weeks of age when they can have their first immunisations.

For more information see Vaccinate at 28

Flu (influenza)

Pregnant women are more likely to become seriously ill or die from complications of the flu than other people. During pregnancy, the immune system is naturally weakened, which puts pregnant women at a greater risk of getting the flu.

The flu vaccine can be given any time during pregnancy, but if given during the second or third trimester, protective antibodies will pass through to the baby before birth and through breast milk after birth. Newborn babies will then have some protection from the flu in the first six months of life until they are old enough to have the flu vaccine.

Translated resources

A fact sheet on immunisation and pregnancy is available in the following languages:

Further information

For more information about immunisations, advice on future vaccinations or to discuss any concerns you may have, contact your doctor, immunisation provider or SA Health's Immunisation Section on 1300 232 272.

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