Vaccinations for pregnant women

Apart from COVID vaccination, doctors recommend two other key vaccinations for pregnant women – the ‘flu shot and the whooping cough booster.  There are also several vaccines that should NOT be given during pregnancy.

COVID Vaccination

Pregnant women are at higher risk of severe illness and pregnancy complications from COVID infection. This includes a higher chance of ending up in the Intensive Care Unit, needing ventilation, giving birth prematurely or suffering a stillbirth.

Vaccination is the best way to reduce this risk. Pregnant women are a priority group for COVID vaccination in Australia. Read more about COVID vaccination in pregnancy here and talk to your obstetrician or GP.

Influenza (flu)

We recommend that pregnant women have the influenza vaccination.  It can be given in any trimester and has not been associated with any fetal problems.

Pregnant women who catch the flu are at higher risk of serious complications.  They are more likely to develop breathing problems, need admission to hospital or end up in the Intensive Care Unit.

Any serious infection during pregnancy, including the flu, can lead to complications like premature birth.

The influenza vaccine is given each year.  It’s available for free to pregnant women from their GP.

Colin Walsh Vaccine

Pertussis (whooping cough)

Whooping cough can be very serious (in fact, life threatening) in babies younger than 6 months.  By vaccinating the mother against whooping cough while she is pregnant, some of her protective antibodies will pass into baby’s blood stream.  This protects baby against whooping cough in the first weeks of life.

There is good evidence that this approach significantly reduces the number of newborn babies who develop serious whooping cough infections.

The pertussis vaccination is recommended to all pregnant women.  We usually aim to give it between 20 and 32 weeks.  You should receive a booster shot in each pregnancy, regardless of when your last pregnancy occurred.

The vaccine is provided free to all pregnant women through your GP.

Family members who will be in close contact with the new baby (e.g. dad and grandparents) may need a booster vaccine.  We recommend it if they haven’t had a booster in the last 10 years.  Family members should see their GP to discuss this further.

Which vaccinations are NOT safe during pregnancy?

    • Rubella (German measles; MMR) should NOT be given to pregnant women. In fact, women should not fall pregnant for 3 months after receiving the rubella vaccine.  Ideally, you should check your rubella status before you start trying to conceive – that way the vaccine can be given well in advance of pregnancy.
    • Varicella (chicken-pox) should NOT be given to pregnant women.  Most (90%) of adult women are already immune to chicken pox.  If you need to be immunised, organise this before you start trying to conceive.
    • Other live vaccines (MMR, BCG, oral polio) should also be avoided during pregnancy.

As always, this information is intended for general educational purposes only. It is not medical advice. Please discuss any medical issues with your own doctor. Read our full medical disclaimer here.