Immunisation and pregnancy
immunisations; pregnancy; immunise; vaccines; vaccinations; chicken; pox; varicella; influenza; measles; mumps; rubella; pneumococcal; pertussis; whooping; cough; hepatitis; vaccinated;
If I am planning to become pregnant is there information I need to know about immunisation?
Yes. It is advisable to speak to your doctor to check that you have protection against certain diseases. Some diseases can cause serious illness in pregnant women, the unborn child or the newborn baby. Immunisation before, during or after pregnancy can protect against such diseases.
The information in this topic comes from the following SA Health fact sheet: 'Immunisation and pregnancy'.
What diseases can I be protected from?
To help protect your baby, it is recommended that parents have protection against:
Measles, mumps, and rubella: Rubella infection in a pregnant woman can cause serious birth defects in the baby. Persons born after 1966 may need a booster dose of measles, mumps and rubella vaccine.
Varicella (chickenpox): Pregnant women and unborn babies can become seriously ill from chickenpox and birth defects can result in the baby. A simple blood test will confirm if you are protected from chickenpox. If you are not protected, speak to your doctor about receiving 2 doses of vaccine.
Influenza: Pregnancy increases the risk of developing serious complications from influenza. For more information have a look at the SA Health fact sheet 'Seasonal influenza vaccination for pregnant women' (PDF - 118kb).
Hepatitis B: Pregnant women can transmit the hepatitis B virus to the newborn at or around the time of birth.
Pertussis (whooping cough): Babies under 6 months of age are at risk of serious illness and even death from whooping cough.
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. Whooping cough vaccine is free in the third trimester for all pregnant women in South Australia.
The whooping cough vaccine should be given in each pregnancy (even pregnancies close together) to give the best protection for each baby.
- Women can also be immunised before getting pregnant or immediately after the birth of their child.
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. These immunisations are not free unlike the ones for pregnant women.
For more information have a look at:
SA Health: Whooping cough vaccine in pregnancy program
Pneumococcal: If you smoke or have chronic heart, lung or kidney disease, or diabetes, then protection against pneumococcal disease is also recommended prior to becoming pregnant.
Some diseases and vaccines, like measles and rubella, will give life long protection but others like whooping cough do not.
Protection against whooping cough lasts for approximately 5 to 10 years. After this time, you are at risk of contracting whooping cough so you may need to have a booster dose of vaccine.
If I have had the disease or was vaccinated as a child, will my baby be protected?
Protection from some diseases like measles, mumps and rubella is passed from you to your baby. This protection is short lasting, usually less than a year.
Your baby does not receive protection from you against diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, polio, hepatitis B or HIB (haemophilus influenzae type b) so they are at risk of catching disease until they are vaccinated.
What vaccinations can I receive before I become pregnant?
Any vaccine can be given before pregnancy, however, you should avoid becoming pregnant for 28 days after measles, mumps, and rubella and chickenpox (varicella) vaccines. Please discuss this with your doctor/immunisation provider.
What vaccinations can I have during my pregnancy?
Influenza vaccination is recommended for pregnant women. For more information have a look at this pamphlet from SAHealth 'Seasonal Influenza vaccination for pregnant women' (PDF - 118kb).
The whooping cough vaccine can also be given in the third trimester (last 3 months) to protect you and your baby (have a look at the information in the section about whooping cough above).
As a precaution, other vaccines are not recommended during pregnancy unless you are in a situation of increased risk where the benefits of vaccination outweigh the risks. Please discuss this further with your doctor/immunisation provider.
What vaccinations can I have after the baby is born?
Any vaccine can be given to women after the baby is born including measles, mumps, and rubella and chickenpox (varicella) vaccines. Speak to your doctor/immunisation provider about influenza and pertussis vaccines as these are highly recommended for both parents as soon as possible after delivery of the baby.
Can I have vaccinations while I am breastfeeding?
Yes. There is evidence that immunisation does not affect breastfeeding.
When will my baby be vaccinated?
You will be offered a 'birth' dose of hepatitis B vaccine for your baby before you leave hospital. This is only provided up to 7 days after delivery to prevent the risk of hepatitis B infection early in life. Evidence shows that the birth dose of hepatitis B vaccine is well tolerated in newborn infants.
The next recommended vaccines for your baby will be due when your baby is 6 weeks old. It is important to vaccinate on time to give your baby early protection against diseases such as diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), polio, rotavirus, hepatitis B, pneumococcal disease and haemophilus influenzae type b (HIB).
There is information about the full program for babies and children on the Parenting and Child Health section of our website. Immunisation
Do vaccines have side effects?
Vaccines are like any other medicine and can have side effects. Most reactions are mild, short lasting and do not require special treatment. Your doctor/immunisation provider will explain what reactions there might be after a vaccination and what to do if you are worried.
Severe allergic reactions occur very rarely and your doctor/immunisation provider is trained to recognise and manage these rare events.
In South Australia, if you would like further information about possible side effects from vaccination, call the Immunisation Section, SA Health on 1300 232 272 or speak to your doctor/immunisation provider.
Where can I get more information?
- See your doctor or local immunisation provider for further information on immunisation and vaccines
- Speak to your midwife
- In South Australia contact the Immunisation Section, Department of Health (details below)
- Women's and Children's Hospital website:
The NHMRC Australian Immunisation Handbook 10th Edition 2013 Australian Immunisation Handbook - 10th Edition, 2013
For more information
- Communicable Disease Control Branch – Immunisation Section, SA Health
Telephone: 1300 232 272
- Parent Helpline 1300 364 100
- Non-English speaking: for information in languages other than English, call the Interpreting and Translating Centre and ask them to call the Department of Health. This service is available at no cost to you, contact (08) 8226 1990
© Department of Health, Government of South Australia. All rights reserved. ISBN:978-1-74243-027-0 Printed June 2013.
The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see your doctor or midwife.