pregnancy

A paediatrician shares the five things pregnant women should know about vaccinations.

NSW Health
Thanks to our brand partner, NSW Health

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.”

paediatrician

  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".

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"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."

The takeaway for mums-to-be is that whooping cough and influenza vaccines are safe - Deng assures me that they have been used worldwide in pregnancy for many, many years.

4. Take note of the vaccination timings.

Life as a parent of a newborn can be so hectic, and there’s so much to remember. Not least that babies and infants are most vulnerable to vaccine-preventable diseases and you can wind yourself up in paranoia if you miss the dates even by a bit.

Thankfully, there’s the free Save The Date To Vaccinate app developed by NSW Health, which is a lifesaver when it comes to reminding you about recommended vaccinations and the schedule. While the app won’t remember to buy milk, at least it will give you a helping hand when it comes to the health of your little and reminding you when to get your baby's vaccinations on time.

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Deng explains why this is so important. "To be fully protected against diseases, immunisations need to occur on time, and the full course needs to be completed according to the schedule," she says. "Some vaccines such as the rotavirus vaccine cannot be given after a certain age."

By giving them on time, you ensure protection against vaccine-preventable diseases - something I personally feel is so important to my child's life.

Emma McMillan
Good health means more times like this. Image: Emma McMillan

5. Partners, carers and siblings should vaccinate too.

It's not just about putting the onus on the mum to be the vaccinated one. Everyone who is close with the child should be vaccinated to ensure their health is not at risk.

"To further protect a new baby, those closest to the baby should also be vaccinated to reduce the risk of transmitting infection," Deng adds.

"Other children in the family need to be up-to-date with their immunisations. All family members should have had a whooping cough vaccination within the last 10 years and also the annual influenza vaccine."

I know from experience that there's a lot to think about when you've got a baby on the way. But by following the advice of your GP, you can feel confident that you’re doing your very best to keep both you and your baby safe.

Which, as a mother-to-be, is all you really want.

This content was created with our brand partner NSW Health.

NSW Health

Babies and children are very vulnerable to serious diseases and vaccination offers the best protection. If children are not up to date with their vaccinations, this can also impact enrolment in child care and access to family assistance payments.
The free ‘Save The Date To Vaccinate' app will help you understand the vaccinations your child needs by sending you timely reminders of important vaccine appointments, protecting your child as well as the broader community.
To find out more about immunisation, you can download the free ‘Save The Date To Vaccinate' app on Apple or Android devices.

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