The whooping cough vaccine in pregnancy
What you need to know about the whooping cough vaccine in pregnancy
What is whooping cough?
Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is a respiratory disease caused by a bacterial infection. Those suffering with the infection struggle to breath and experience choking and coughing which can often sound like a whoop, hence its name.
Babies under 1 year old are most at risk from the disease. It commonly lasts for 2-3 months and if the infection is severe, can lead to serious complications such as pneumonia or brain damage. In some cases, although rare in the UK, whooping cough can lead to death.
What are the benefits of getting vaccinated during pregnancy?
Expectant mothers can reduce the risk of their baby getting whooping cough by getting vaccinated whilst pregnant. After receiving the vaccine, your body will create protective antibodies which are passed to your unborn baby through the placenta. This will help protect your baby from the disease in the first few weeks of their life before they are old enough to get the vaccination themselves at 2 months old.
Following a rise in whooping cough cases across the UK, the vaccination programme for pregnant women was introduced in 2012 and has already protected many young babies.
What are the risks of getting vaccinated whilst pregnant?
There are no known vaccination risks to a mother or her unborn baby. In 2014 the MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) carried out an in depth study with 18,000 women, and discovered there were no pregnancy risks associated with the vaccine.
However, you may experience some mild side effects for a couple of days after having the vaccine, such as tenderness or redness where the vaccine is given.
When should I be vaccinated?
The best time to get vaccinated to protect your baby is from 16 weeks, up until week 32. This time frame maximises the chance that your baby will be protected from birth, through the transfer of your antibodies before birth. However, it can be given right up until you go into labour.
How can I get vaccinated?
It’s likely that you’ll be offered the vaccination during your routine antenatal appointments.
However, if you’re over the 20 week mark and have yet to be offered the vaccine, follow up with your midwife or GP to get an appointment scheduled.
How effective is the vaccination?
The vaccination cannot guarantee 100% immunity, however studies have shown that women who have received the vaccine during pregnancy have a 90% reduced risk of their baby getting the illness, in comparison to those who have not been vaccinated.
An additional benefit is mothers who have been vaccinated reduce their own risk of getting infected and passing whooping cough on to their baby.
Does my baby need to be vaccinated for whooping cough again?
Yes. Your baby will need to be vaccinated against whooping cough themselves when they are 2 months old. This vaccination is included in the 6-in-1 vaccine and is part of the normal NHS vaccination schedule.