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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, may cause birth defects and miscarriage. Immunisations offer protection for both the mother and baby before, during and after pregnancy.


Before pregnancy

It is important to make sure immunisations are up to date before becoming pregnant. 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 having direct contact with the baby to check their immunisations are up-to-date.

Most vaccines can be safely given before pregnancy, but 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

To be protected against these diseases, two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine are recommended.

Rubella (German measles) infection in a pregnant woman can cause serious birth defects in the unborn baby.

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 vaccines or 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 pneumonia (infection of the lungs), meningitis (infection of the covering of the brain and spinal cord) and bacteraemia (infection of the blood). 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. Higher risk people should also be vaccinated against pneumococcal disease.

Further information

For more information about immunisations, advice on future vaccinations or to discuss any concerns you may have, contact your doctor or immunisation provider.

During pregnancy

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

Whooping cough (pertussis)

Pregnant women can help protect themselves and their newborn from whooping cough by getting immunised during pregnancy. Protective antibodies will take up to two weeks to develop to protect the mother and will be passed from the mother to the unborn baby, so the baby has some protection from birth.

Babies less than six months of age are too young to be fully immunised against whooping cough and are at higher risk of severe disease, being hospitalised and may even die.  Parents are the source of infection in infants in more than 50% of cases. Siblings and healthcare workers are also a source of infant infections.

The whooping cough vaccine offered may be either Adacel® or Boostrix® and should be given in each pregnancy (even pregnancies close together) to give the best protection for each baby. Babies will have some protection until they can have their first immunisations at six weeks of age.

The best time for pregnant women to have the vaccine is between 20 and 32 weeks of pregnancy, although it can be given up to the time of delivery. However, if the vaccine is given in the two weeks prior to delivery, the newborn may not be adequately protected. If a pregnant woman has already received a whooping cough vaccine before 20 weeks gestation, there is no need to repeat this later in the pregnancy.

The whooping cough vaccine is free for pregnant women. Speak to your doctor, midwife or health worker about how to get immunised.

The whooping cough vaccine is highly recommended, but may not be free, for:

  • fathers, partners, grandparents and other carers involved in the care of a young baby under 6 months of age
  • new parents if they haven’t recently received a whooping cough vaccine
  • any other adult or child (eligible for funded catch up vaccines if less than 20 years of age) who will have close contact with the new baby.

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 and protective antibodies will pass through to the baby before birth and through breast milk after birth. Newborn babies may have some protection from influenza in early infancy.

Women who received the previous year’s seasonal influenza vaccine early in their pregnancy can receive the current seasonal influenza vaccine (when it becomes available) later in the same pregnancy.

Further information

For more information about immunisations, advice on future vaccinations or to discuss any concerns you may have, contact your doctor or immunisation provider.

Are vaccines safe during pregnancy?

Like with any medication, some people may experience a common or expected reaction or an unexpected reaction to a vaccine. Most common side effects 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.

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 for Pregnant Women (PDF 154KB)


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