During pregnancy, it is important you are protected against infections and illnesses that can be harmful to you and your baby. The best way to be sure of this protection is to get the recommended vaccinations at the appropriate time.
- Whooping cough (pertussis) and flu vaccines are safe to be given during pregnancy and are free to pregnant women in New Zealand.
- It is recommended that all pregnant women have the pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine in the second or third trimester of each pregnancy. The influenza vaccine can be given at any time.
- It is best to have a whooping cough booster vaccine and flu vaccine for each pregnancy.
- Some vaccines should not be given during pregnancy. These include the MMR, chickenpox and pneumococcal vaccine. It is best to wait 4 weeks (1 month) after having these vaccines before trying to get pregnant.
- Learn more about vaccinations you should have before pregnancy and those you can have during pregnancy below.
Vaccinations before pregnancy
Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR)
Rubella infection during pregnancy can cause serious birth defects. If you were born after 1968, you may need a booster vaccination of MMR for full protection against measles, mumps and rubella. Check with your doctor. It is best to wait 4 weeks (1 month) after having this vaccine before trying to get pregnant. Read more about MMR vaccine.
Chickenpox infection during pregnancy can cause severe illness in you and your unborn baby. A simple blood test can check if you have immunity to this infection. If you are not protected, ask your doctor for 2 doses of the vaccine for full immunity. It is best to wait 4 weeks (1 month) after having his vaccine before trying to get pregnant. Read more about chickenpox vaccine.
Pneumococcal vaccine is used to prevent infection that is caused by a bacteria called Pneumococcus. This 'bug' is easily spread through the air, when someone with the bacteria coughs, sneezes or even talks. It can also be spread by touching objects that have been coughed or sneezed on by someone with the bacteria. Pneumococcal disease can range from mild infections, such as ear or sinus infections, to serious, life-threatening infections like pneumonia, meningitis or blood infection. Read more about pneumococcal vaccine.
Vaccinations during pregnancy
Whooping cough (pertussis) and flu vaccines are safe to be given during pregnancy and are free to pregnant women in New Zealand. These vaccines have been used without harm to the mother or baby.
Pregnant women should get a booster pertussis vaccine at each pregnancy because protection against pertussis decreases over time.
Pertussis vaccine protects against the bacterial infection whooping cough (also called pertussis) that causes uncontrollable coughing. Complications can be serious, including pneumonia and seizures.
Babies less than 6 months of age have the highest risk of hospitalisation and death from whooping cough. Although babies receive immunisations against whooping cough at 6 weeks, 3 months and 5 months of age, they only have full protection after the third dose.
Immunisation with the pertussis vaccine during pregnancy is the best way to protect newborns against whooping cough. The vaccination offers protection in two ways:
- It stimulates the mother's immune system to produce antibodies, which reduces the risk of the mother getting the disease and therefore reduce the risk of her passing it onto her baby.
- The antibodies also pass across the placenta into the baby's bloodstream, protecting the baby from severe whooping cough for the first few weeks after birth. Baby should then be vaccinated themselves at the age of 6 weeks.
Pregnant women should have the pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine in the second or third trimester of each pregnancy – preferably within the second trimester, from 16 weeks but at least two weeks prior to birth. This will allow time for the mother's immune system to produce antibody protection against pertussis (whooping cough) and ensure there is enough time before birth for high levels of antibodies to pass through the placenta into the baby to provide baby with its own temporary protection against severe disease.
Catching the flu during pregnancy increases your chances for serious problems such as pneumonia, respiratory failure, stillbirth and premature labour and delivery. Getting the flu vaccine is the best way to protect yourself and your baby during pregnancy and for several months after birth from flu-related complications.
Vaccination anytime during the pregnancy stimulates the mother's immune system to produce antibodies reducing the risk of the mother getting the flu. The antibodies also pass across the placenta into the baby's bloodstream, protecting the baby from the flu for up to 6 months after birth.
Recommended and funded vaccines during pregnancy (pdf) Immunisation Advisory Centre, NZ
Influenza and pregnancy Immunisation Advisory Centre, NZ
Immunisation for pregnant women Ministry of Health, NZ
Pregnant Woman Fight Flu, NZ