Pregnancy

Pertussis Vaccination Guide During Pregnancy

Pertussis Vaccination Guide During Pregnancy

There is a lot of whooping cough at the moment and babies too young to start their vaccinations are most at risk.

Moms-to-be can help protect their babies by getting the whooping cough vaccine starting at 16 weeks. The vaccine is sometimes offered after the mid-pregnancy ultrasound around 18 to 20 weeks.

The vaccination program was introduced in 2012 and has already protected many young babies against whooping cough. Since the disease continues to circulate at high levels in older age groups, pregnant women still need to be vaccinated.

It is important to get vaccinated during each pregnancy.

You may have thought whooping cough had died out, but the number of cases in England and Wales started to rise from late 2011.

In 2012, there were 10 times more cases than expected in a peak year for the disease. Of particular concern is the increasing number of cases in young babies who are too young to be vaccinated themselves.

To protect their babies from this serious disease, all pregnant women are offered the whooping cough vaccine. This program has been in place since 2012 and is very effective in protecting babies until they can receive their first vaccine at 2 months of age. However, pertussis levels are still high in older age groups, so it is important that babies continue to be protected.

Protect your baby

Whooping cough is a serious illness that can lead to pneumonia and permanent brain damage. Most young babies with whooping cough will be hospitalized and at risk of dying from the disease. Deaths from whooping cough are rare in the UK, but more babies died in 2012 than in recent years.

Young babies are particularly at risk of serious illnesses and remain vulnerable until they can be vaccinated against whooping cough from the age of 2 months. You can help protect your unborn baby against whooping cough in its first few weeks by getting the whooping cough vaccine during your pregnancy. You should get vaccinated even if you have been vaccinated before or have had whooping cough yourself.

The best time to get vaccinated to protect your baby is from 16 to 32 weeks of pregnancy. You can get the vaccine any time after 16 weeks, but if you get it after 38 weeks it may be less effective.

The uptake of the vaccine among pregnant women has been very encouraging and the vaccination program has been very effective in protecting young babies against whooping cough.

Act now to protect your baby from whooping cough from birth. Talk to your midwife or generalist practice and make an appointment to get vaccinated.

Your baby will still need to be vaccinated as normal when he reaches 8 weeks of age.

Whooping Cough Information

What is whooping cough

Whooping cough (also known as whooping cough) causes long bouts of coughing and choking, making it difficult to breathe. The “whoop” noise is caused by gasping for breath after each coughing fit.

Young babies don’t always do this, which can make it difficult to recognize the condition. Whooping cough usually lasts 2 to 3 months. Babies under one year old are most at risk of whooping cough. For these babies, the disease is very serious and can lead to pneumonia and permanent brain damage. In the worst case, it can lead to death.

Pertussis outbreaks

On average, over the 10 years from 2002 to 2011 in England and Wales, 800 cases of whooping cough were reported each year with over 300 babies needing hospitalization and 4 babies dying. In 2012, however, pertussis cases rose sharply with almost 10,000 cases and 14 infant deaths.

The causes of this increase are not yet fully understood but are being investigated. Protecting young babies who are most likely to suffer seriously if they catch the disease is of the utmost importance. We can better protect these babies by vaccinating women between weeks 16 and 32 of their pregnancy. This will help protect the baby from birth until their first routine shot is due at 2 months of age.

Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Ireland, Israel, New Zealand, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States are all experiencing a similar problem with increasing numbers of cases and of deaths of young children. All of these countries now recommend maternal pertussis vaccination.

Information for pregnant women

Are there any risks to you or your baby if you are vaccinated during pregnancy?

The Medicines and Health Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) in the UK completed a large study on the safety of the vaccine during pregnancy in 2014. This study, involving nearly 18,000 vaccinated women, found no vaccine-associated risk of pregnancy and normal birth rates and healthy were no different from those as in unvaccinated women. Similar vaccines are also routinely recommended during pregnancy in the United States, where no risk to pregnancy has been found.

The whooping cough vaccine is not a live vaccine, so it cannot cause whooping cough in you or your baby if you have the vaccine. It is safer for you to get vaccinated than to risk your newborn getting whooping cough.

As there is no vaccine against whooping cough only, the vaccine you will be offered also protects against poliomyelitis, diphtheria and tetanus. This is the same vaccine that is routinely given to children before they start school. All parts of the vaccine are killed (inactivated) and it can be given safely during pregnancy.

Vaccine side effects during pregnancy

You may have mild vaccine side effects that are common, such as swelling, redness, or tenderness where the vaccine is given. Serious side effects are extremely rare, especially in adults. There are no safety issues specific to vaccination during pregnancy.

How getting vaccinated during pregnancy protects your baby

Immunity gained from the vaccine will be passed to your baby through the placenta. This will help protect your baby during the first vulnerable weeks of life until he is old enough to receive the vaccine at 2 months old. Babies are offered pertussis vaccination at 8, 12 and 16 weeks of age as part of their routine vaccinations.

Does the vaccine definitely mean your baby doesn’t get whooping cough?

No vaccination guarantees 100% protection, but this program has been in place since 2012 in the UK and published studies have shown the vaccine to be over 90% effective in protecting your baby against whooping cough until his vaccinations begin at the age of 2 months.

Are you still worried about getting vaccinated during your pregnancy? Is there another way to protect your baby against whooping cough?

Unfortunately, there is no effective alternative. In recent years, most deaths from whooping cough in the UK have occurred in young babies before they are old enough to receive their first whooping cough vaccine. Any protection you may have had from having whooping cough or being vaccinated when you were young may have worn off. Being vaccinated during pregnancy provides antibodies that will be passed on to your baby so that he has some protection in the first weeks of life when pertussis is most severe.

Why your baby cannot be vaccinated from birth

Even if immunized immediately, your baby would not be protected from birth as it takes up to 2 weeks to develop a response to the vaccine and babies need 3 doses to gain full protection.

How long will your vaccination protect your baby against whooping cough?

The immunity your newborn gets from your vaccination will help protect him for the first few weeks of life until he can get his first routine vaccination at 2 months of age. Your baby will still need the full course of 3 routine pertussis vaccinations to protect him until he gets his preschool booster dose 3 years later.

You were vaccinated as a child and are going to breastfeed – won’t this protect your baby

Unfortunately, breastfeeding does not sufficiently protect your baby against whooping cough.

If you are expecting twins

One vaccine will help protect all of your babies, no matter how many you expect.

If you become pregnant again soon after your baby is born

You should get revaccinated ideally between 16 and 32 weeks of pregnancy.

Timing of vaccination

If you are pregnant, you should receive your vaccine between weeks 16 and 32. You may be offered it during your mid-pregnancy check-up around 18 to 20 weeks.

Until when in your pregnancy can you get vaccinated?

Vaccination should ideally be given anytime between 16 and 32 weeks. You can still get the vaccine up until the time of delivery, but it may be less effective after 38 weeks.

what you must do now

If you are in week 16 of your pregnancy and have not heard from your midwife or generalist practice, contact them to arrange an appointment as soon as possible.

Have flu and whooping cough vaccines at the same time

If you are pregnant during flu season, you should get the flu shot as early in your pregnancy as possible. If you are 16 weeks or older, you can and should receive both vaccines.

The whooping cough vaccine can be administered at the same time as the flu vaccine, but don’t wait for the winter season to have them together. Your baby will be better protected if you receive the vaccine from the 16th week of your pregnancy.

What do you want to know

Whooping cough is a serious illness in babies where it can lead to complications resulting in hospitalization and even death.

Expectant mothers can protect their babies from birth by getting the whooping cough vaccine during pregnancy.

The best time to get vaccinated is between weeks 16 and 32 of your pregnancy.

You may be offered the whooping cough vaccine after your mid-pregnancy check-up, usually done between 18 and 20 weeks. If this has not been offered to you, please ask your midwife or generalist practice.

The number of babies infected with whooping cough has decreased since the introduction of vaccination during pregnancy.

But pregnant women still need to get vaccinated because the disease remains at high levels in older children and adults.

Remember that you can still get your whooping cough vaccine up until the time of delivery, but it may be less effective after 38 weeks.

In a recent UK study of nearly 18,000 vaccinated pregnant women, there was no increased risk to their pregnancies or babies from vaccination.

More information

See vaccines on NHS.UK