Being immunised when you’re pregnant gives you and your baby protection against some serious, but preventable diseases.
Influenza (the flu)
When you’re pregnant, your body changes to help your developing baby. Some of these changes, including the way your immune system works, means you are more likely to get very sick if you catch the flu.
And as you would think, being very sick with the flu also affects your baby. They are more likely to be born early, small for their age, low in birthweight or end up in intensive care.
That’s why the flu vaccine is free and recommended for every pregnancy.
Studies have shown when mum had the flu vaccine their baby was less likely to get the flu or be hospitalised for the flu.
Catching whooping cough as a newborn baby is very serious, as their lungs and airways can be badly affected, making it very difficult to breathe.
For every ten babies that catch whooping cough, five will end up in hospital. Many will end up very sick, some will even die.
Because their whooping cough immunisations don’t start until 6 weeks of age, this early period is especially risky.
The most effective way to help protect your baby is to have the booster vaccine in the last trimester of pregnancy.
A study in England showed that 9 out of 10 babies younger than 3 months of age whose mums had the booster were protected against whooping cough.
Your immune system will produce antibodies that recognise and destroy whooping cough. These antibodies which will pass through the placenta to your baby and help protect them until their own immunisations start at 6 weeks.
How it works
Your immune system makes antibodies all the time, and throughout pregnancy your baby receives these antibodies through the placenta.
Vaccines contain tiny pieces of inactive virus or bacteria, and these trigger your immune system to produce antibodies against the disease.
When you’re immunised during pregnancy, the vaccine itself doesn’t get past the placenta. But the antibodies that your immune system makes are transferred through to help protect your baby up to several months after they’re born.
Vaccines for pregnant mums have been recommended and available for more than 25 years. Safety data on the use of vaccines is continually collected and assessed.
In this way, the world has collected data for decades from millions of pregnant women who have had vaccines.
This information provides very strong evidence that immunisation against flu and whooping cough is safe for a pregnant mother and her unborn baby.