Flu and Whooping Cough

Avoid Flu During Pregnancy

The influenza vaccine is strongly recommended for women who will be (or intend to be) pregnant during the upcoming ‘flu season’.

Immunisation is free for pregnant women. Vaccination against influenza has been shown to be highly beneficial for pregnant women and their unborn babies. New Zealand is not alone in this recommendation, influenza vaccination for all pregnant women is currently recommended by health authorities in the USA, Australia and many European countries.

Protect yourself and your baby. Get immunised.

The influenza vaccine can be safely given during any stage of pregnancy.

There is no increased risk of reactions to the vaccine for pregnant women and you CANNOT get the flu from the vaccine.

The influenza vaccine will not harm your unborn baby. It may be reassuring to know that the influenza vaccine does not actually cross the placenta into your baby. The vaccine simply stimulates your own immune system to make antibodies that can fight off the virus.

The good news is that once you have immunity, you can pass it on to your baby naturally which has been shown to decrease the chances of your newborn getting the flu. Newborns and young infants have higher rates of influenza and hospitalisation than other children, so the protection they receive from you in the womb could make all the difference.

You are at risk of Influenza while pregnant

Influenza is not a cold, it can be a dangerous illness that can pose a very serious risk to the life of you and your unborn baby. Plus, there are a number of influenza related complications that can affect development in the womb and can even lead to miscarriage or premature birth.

There are a range of changes that occur during pregnancy (such as changes in immunity) which may put pregnant women at higher risk. Research shows that healthy pregnant women are up to 18 times more likely to be admitted to hospital when suffering from influenza complications that women who are not pregnant.

Influenza is dangerous

There are a number of factors that make influenza dangerous to an unborn baby. It is worth knowing that the influenza virus does not actually cross the placenta to infect your baby, the danger comes from your own body as it fights the illness.

Whooping Cough Vaccine for Pregnant Women

New Zealand is currently experiencing a whooping cough (Pertussis) epidemic. Therefor the pregnant women are being advised to have a free vaccine from their doctor (GP) when they are between 28-38 weeks pregnant.

What is whooping cough?

Whooping cough is a very contagious illness that causes very severe coughing. The symptoms can last up to 3 months. It is especially serious in babies. About 7 in 10 babies with whooping cough will need to be admitted to hospital. About 1 in 30 babies admitted to hospital will die of whooping cough. Babies may also suffer permanent brain damage.

Why do pregnant women need to be vaccinated?

If you come into contact with someone who has whooping cough there is a chance that you can catch it and pass this onto your unborn baby.

Even if you have been vaccinated in the past, your immune system may need to be boosted in pregnancy.

Being vaccinated means that some immunity may pass through your placenta to your baby and this may provide additional protection until your baby starts having their own immunisations at six weeks old.

Is the vaccine safe in pregnancy?

Yes, it is believed to be safe to give in pregnancy. It is a booster vaccine for adults that is given as part of a triple vaccine: tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (Tdap). It is not a live vaccine and has small amounts of immune activating substances.

Side effects

  • The most common reported side effects are redness and discomfort at the vaccination site and sometimes fever.
  • For all vaccines, similar to most medications, an extremely rare allergic reaction called ‘anaphylaxis’ can occur. Anaphylaxis after immunisation occurs about 1 – 3 times in every one million vaccine doses. If you have ever had a severe reaction (anaphylaxis) to this immunisation or it’s components we recommend that you do not have this vaccine.

If you experience any unusual side effects please contact your doctor or Lead Maternity Carer (LMC) for advice.

How do I get my vaccination?

Contact your doctor and ask for an appointment for a free whooping cough vaccination. Make sure you tell them you are pregnant.

Should other people in my family be vaccinated?

This is a timely reminder that all other children in the whanau/family should be up to date with their vaccinations. Dads, grandparents or extended whanau/family members who will be in close contact with your baby may also need a booster vaccination. They can get this via their doctor (GP) but there will be a cost as it is not free of charge.

Further information

Phone: 0800 466 863
Talk to your GP or LMC