Whooping Cough Vaccine In Pregnancy: Is It Necessary?

14/08/2014 17:03 | Updated 20 May 2015

Whooping cough vaccine in pregnancy: Is it necessary?

The whooping cough vaccine is being offered to all pregnant women in the UK, but is it really necessary?

Whooping cough - or to give it its medical name, pertussis - can be a very serious condition for young babies, which can cause brain damage, weight loss and death in very extreme cases. However in adults, it is less likely to result in serious complications.

So why are pregnant women being offered vaccination against the disease?

Newborn babies can't be vaccinated until they are two months old, but they are most at risk of complications from whooping cough.

Pregnant women who receive the whooping cough vaccine pass on the protective antibodies to their baby through the placenta. This protects the baby once he or she is born until they are old enough to be vaccinated themselves.

Is the vaccine safe in pregnancy?

A study of more than 20,000 vaccinated pregnant women found no evidence to suggest that the whooping vaccine puts you or your baby at risk.

Are there any side effects?

Serious side effects are extremely rare, but your arm may feel a little swollen and tender where the vaccine was injected.

Other possible side effects include: fever, irritation or swelling of the arm, loss of appetite, irritability and headache.

When should I have the vaccine?

Between the 28th and 38th week of your pregnancy.

You may be offered the vaccine at a routine antenatal appointment. But if you are over 28 weeks pregnant and have not been offered the jab, talk to your midwife or GP about making an appointment.

The vaccine you will be given by your doctor also protects against polio, diptheria and tetanus. It's similar to the 4-in-1 booster vaccine that's routinely given to children before they start school.

I was vaccinated against whooping cough as a child, do I need to get vaccinated again?

Yes, the protection from vaccination doesn't last forever and is unlikely to still provide enough protection for your baby.

If I've had the jab, will my baby still need the vaccination when she's two months old?

Unfortunately the effects of the vaccine wear off over time, so she will still need to go for routine vaccination when she is two months old.

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