When I first found out I was pregnant, I was very quickly bombarded with information from all sides. Do this, don’t do that, read all the books! Talk about information overload.
I just wanted advice from people I could really trust, to make sure I was doing the right thing by my unborn baby. Sound familiar? Well, you can exhale and put your mind at ease, because the information is out there and you don’t have to dig too deep for it – or worry yourself sick.
One of the areas that I found assurance in is researching exactly how as a first-time parent I’m meant to tackle child vaccinations, from pre-birth to post-birth.
I spoke to paediatrician Dr Lucy Deng, from the National Centre for Immunisation Research & Surveillance, who helped me better understand what all expectant and new parents need to know when it comes to vaccinations in those precious early days.
1. Vaccinations need to be talked about during pregnancy planning.
Rather than waiting until you’re pregnant, it’s actually crucial to discuss vaccinations with your GP when you’re planning a pregnancy, Deng tells Mamamia.
By doing so, Deng says that “both mother and baby can be best protected against vaccine-preventable diseases. Infections such as measles, rubella and chicken pox (varicella) can affect the unborn baby during pregnancy. While there are vaccinations for these diseases, they should be given before pregnancy.”
Dr Lucy Deng is an expert in this field. Image: Supplied.
2. Vaccinations in pregnancy protect both mother and baby
Now this is something that's super-important, but not everyone knows. Deng recommends that pregnant women get a whooping cough vaccine "ideally between 28 and 32 weeks' gestation".
"Because antibodies in the body decrease over time, we also recommend women have a whooping cough vaccine with every pregnancy to ensure the maximum number of protective antibodies are transferred across to each newborn," Deng adds. That's right - with each pregnancy! Immunising against whooping cough during pregnancy is the most effective way to protect you and your baby before their first vaccinations at six weeks of age.
In addition to that, Deng recommends the annual influenza vaccination for all pregnant women. Influenza vaccine can be given at any stage during pregnancy, but if possible get vaccinated before the flu season hits as influenza can have severe effects on pregnant women and infants.
Pregnant women in NSW can access whooping cough and influenza vaccines for free, which is super helpful.
3. There are two recommended vaccines in pregnancy
Those powerful mothering instincts kick in early. What can you do while you’re pregnant to keep your baby safe before they’re born?
Whooping cough can be frightening- and is most severe in babies under three months of age, Deng says. Now, we've all heard the horror stories, but there's no need to feel powerless about it.
By "taking the shot" for your baby while pregnant, you pass on immunity that helps to protect them when they’re born. It's the most effective way to prevent whooping cough in newborns before their first vaccinations.
Similarly, the influenza vaccine has an important purpose during pregnancy. "Influenza can severely affect pregnant women and young infants, with pregnant women five times more likely to be admitted to ICU with influenza than other women," Deng tells me. "Influenza infection in pregnancy can also cause premature delivery and neonatal death."