pregnancy

The whooping cough vaccine: The information all pregnant women should know.

Queensland Health
Thanks to our brand partner, Queensland Health

Seven months ago I gave birth to my third child, a beautiful girl. Before she was born I remember sitting in my kitchen, huge pregnant belly in front of me, sobbing as I read about baby Riley, who tragically died after being infected with whooping cough. I just couldn’t imagine. I didn’t want to imagine.

Perhaps it was the pregnancy hormones but at the time I was at home recovering after spending close on two weeks in hospital battling meningitis. Not fun at the best of times. Even more scary while pregnant.

I have always been so protective of my children when it comes to vaccinating on time and while I know there is no vaccination for a virus like meningitis, it did make me aware of just how easily these diseases can spread.

are the terrible twos real

Jacqui and her bub. Image: Supplied. 

The protective instincts in me kicked in and I spent the morning researching and refreshing my knowledge on exactly which vaccinations I needed to arrange and the schedule that they should follow.

That afternoon I made an appointment with my doctor as I had heard that pregnant women could access a whooping cough vaccine that was not available during my first two pregnancies.

He explained that the whooping cough vaccination was now available (free of charge) to all pregnant women. By receiving the vaccination, a pregnant woman’s immune system kicks in and she begins to produce antibodies to the whooping cough virus.

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These antibodies are then passed on to baby prior to birth and are enough to keep baby immune until their six week vaccinations.

For those who don’t know, whooping cough (also known as pertussis) is a highly infectious bacterial disease that leaves sufferers with huge bouts of coughing fits. Newborn babies are particularly vulnerable and without vaccinations: the disease can be deadly.

"I have always been so protective of my children." Image: iStock.

Safe to say, I got the jab that afternoon. And I can tell you now, I am glad I did.

Illness struck our house again when my daughter was three-months-old. She was hospitalised for a week with high fevers. While there, I got the first-hand experience of hearing a tiny baby gasping for breath, fighting desperately against whooping cough.

He was in the isolation room down the hall from us and each time I walked past I could see the heartbreak on his mother’s face, watching her baby son struggling to breathe. It’s not a situation I would wish on anyone.

But there are steps you can take to ensure your baby is protected from whooping cough from day one.

1. Get yourself vaccinated.

Ask your doctor for a whooping cough vaccination. It’s usually given from 28 weeks.

2. Get techy with it.

As us expectant mums know, there is a lot to keep track of during pregnancy. Luckily Queensland Health have made one thing easier once bub arrives with their new app, VacciDate.

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VacciDate is the bees knees when it comes to all things vaccination. It not only helps keep track of your child’s vaccination schedule but sends you monthly, weekly or daily reminders which can be linked with your personal calendar and keeps a record of all vaccinations.

"VacciDate is the bees knees when it comes to all things vaccination." Image: iStock. 

Having an app which reminds you of all these kinds of important things is fantastic, especially during those first sleep deprived months when your brain might not be working quite as it used to.

3. Get herd immunity around you.

Ask immediate family and anyone who would likely come to see your newborn to also get a whooping cough booster.

4. Bond with baby.

The best whooping cough protection for bub in the early days is the vaccination you get while pregnant. But if you’re still worried about your child being exposed to whooping cough as a newborn, try and limit taking them to places where people may be coughing or sneezing. We’re not saying you should cut yourself off from the outside world but it’s actually also a beautiful time to be with your new baby in a newborn bubble at home (and catch up on Netflix between naps).

What is your experience with the whooping cough vaccine?