During pregnancy, your immune system is naturally weaker than usual. This means you are more susceptible to certain infections and illnesses that can be harmful to you and your developing baby.
Following some simple precautions will help minimise the risk to you and your baby of developing these health issues.
Vaccination is a simple and effective way to protect you and your baby from certain infections. Before becoming pregnant, check that your vaccinations are up to date to protect against diseases that can cause illness in you or your unborn baby.
Vaccination is the term used for getting a vaccine — that is, getting the injection or taking an oral vaccine dose. Immunisation refers to the process of both getting the vaccine and becoming immune to the disease after vaccination.
Learn more about the difference between vaccination and immunisation.
As well as the routine vaccinations such as tetanus and polio, pregnant women should have immunity against hepatitis B, measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox (varicella), whooping cough (pertussis) and influenza.
All women are encouraged to get vaccinated before pregnancy because some of these vaccines are not recommended during pregnancy.
However, if you were unable to receive these vaccines before your pregnancy, you can have influenza and whooping cough (pertussis) during pregnancy and the others as soon as possible after your baby is born. All of these vaccines can be given to breastfeeding mothers, and having immunity will reduce the likelihood of passing on these illnesses to your baby.
COVID-19 vaccines and pregnancy
It is recommended that pregnant women can get the Pfizer (Cominarty) vaccine at any stage of their pregnancy.
If you are planning a pregnancy, you can also receive the vaccine and you don’t need to avoid becoming pregnant or delaying pregnancy after getting vaccinated.
For more information, read COVID-19 vaccination and pregnancy.
Vaccinations before pregnancy
Measles, mumps and rubella
Rubella infection during pregnancy can cause serious birth defects. Checking your immunity with a blood test before becoming pregnant and having a booster vaccination if required will help protect your unborn child when you do become pregnant. This should be done in consultation with your doctor. It is recommended that you wait 4 weeks after receiving this vaccine before trying to get pregnant.
Chickenpox infection during pregnancy can cause severe illness in you and your unborn baby. A simple blood test can determine if you have immunity to this infection. If you are not protected, speak to your doctor about receiving 2 doses of the vaccine for full immunity. It is recommended that you wait 4 weeks after receiving this vaccine before trying to get pregnant.
Hepatitis B is an infection with a virus that can cause long-lasting liver damage. If you are planning a pregnancy, it is important to check if you need to be vaccinated for hepatitis B.
Protection against serious illness caused by pneumococcal disease is recommended for smokers and people with chronic heart, lung or kidney disease, or diabetes.
Vaccines that are required to travel to other countries are not always recommended during pregnancy. Find out more about travel and pregnancy.
Safe vaccinations during pregnancy
Influenza and whooping cough vaccines are the only vaccines recommended for women during pregnancy. Both vaccines are provided free to pregnant women through the National Immunisation Program.
Whooping cough (pertussis)
Whooping cough can cause serious illness and even death in babies less than 6 months old. It is now recommended that all pregnant women receive a single dose of pertussis (whooping cough) vaccination between 20 and 32 weeks in each pregnancy. A combination of antibodies being passed through the mother’s bloodstream and the reduced risk of the mother contracting the disease makes this an ideal time to administer the vaccine. Speak to your doctor or antenatal care provider to schedule an appointment.
Influenza can cause serious illness. The risk to pregnant women of serious complications is up to 5 times higher than normal. Because of this, the flu vaccine is recommended and funded for all pregnant women.
The influenza vaccine is safe and can be administered before, during or after pregnancy. Getting vaccinated every year protects you against new strains of the virus and also reduces the risk of spreading influenza to your baby, babies are also at higher risk of complications if they do get flu. Getting the flu vaccine during your pregnancy will also provide ongoing protection to your newborn for the first 6 months after birth.
For more information about the influenza vaccine during pregnancy, visit the Department of Health.
Watch this video to learn more about immunisation during pregnancy from a health expert.
Video provided by Immunisation Coalition.
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Last reviewed: May 2021