During pregnancy, your immune system is naturally weaker than usual. This means you are more susceptible to certain infections and illnesses which can be harmful to you and your developing baby.
Following some simple precautions will help minimise the risk to you and your baby of developing these health issues.
Immunisation is a simple and effective way to protect yourself and your baby from certain infections. Before becoming pregnant, check that you have protection against diseases that can cause illness in you or your unborn baby.
As well as the routine immunisations such as tetanus and polio, pregnant women should have immunity against hepatits B, measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox, whooping cough and influenza.
All women are encouraged to get vaccinated before pregnancy as not all of these vaccines are recommended during pregnancy.
However, if you were unable to receive these vaccines before your pregnancy, it is recommended you get them during the pregnancy (for influenza, and pertussis in the third trimester) or as soon as possible after your baby is born for the others. All vaccines can be given to breastfeeding mothers, and having immunity will reduce the likelihood of passing on these illnesses to your baby.
Vaccinations before pregnancy
Measles, mumps and rubella
Rubella infection during pregnancy can cause serious birth defects. If you were born after 1966, you may need a booster vaccination for full protection. This should be done in consultation with your doctor. It is recommended that you wait four weeks after receiving this vaccine before trying to get pregnant.
Chickenpox infection during pregnancy can cause severe illness in you and your unborn baby. A simple blood test can determine if you have immunity to this infection. If you are not protected, speak to your doctor about receiving two doses of the vaccine for full immunity. It is recommended that you wait four weeks after receiving this vaccine before trying to get pregnant.
Protection against serious illness caused by pneumococcal disease is recommended for smokers and people with chronic heart, lung or kidney disease, or diabetes.
Vaccines that are required to travel to other countries are not always recommended during pregnancy. Find out more about travel and pregnancy.
Safe vaccinations during pregnancy
Influenza and pertussis vaccines are the only vaccines recommended for women during pregnancy.
Whooping cough (pertussis)
Whooping cough can cause serious illness and even death in babies less than six months old. It is now recommended that all pregnant women receive a pertussis (whooping cough) vaccination during their third trimester (ideally at 28 weeks). A combination of antibodies being passed through the mother’s bloodstream and the reduced risk of the mother contracting the disease makes this an ideal time to administer the vaccine. Most states now offer the pertussis vaccination for free. Speak to your doctor or antenatal care provider to schedule an appointment.
Influenza can cause serious illness and being pregnant increases the risk of flu complications, with the risk to pregnant women of serious complications up to five times higher than normal. Because of this, the flu vaccine is recommended and funded for all pregnant women.
The influenza vaccine is safe and can be administered before, during or after pregnancy. Getting vaccinated every year protects you against new strains of the virus and also reduces the risk of spreading influenza to your baby, who are also at higher risk of complications if they do get flu. Getting the flu vaccine during your pregnancy will also provide ongoing protection to your newborn for the first 6 months after birth.
For more information about the influenza vaccine during pregnancy, visit Immunise Australia.
Last reviewed: December 2017