Questions about pregnancy and vaccinations
Thursday 8 August 2019
When you’re pregnant, there are many decisions you will need to make about how you take care of yourself and your growing baby. What will you eat? How much should you exercise? How do you want to give birth?
One decision that women might deliberate over is whether to get recommended vaccinations while pregnant. Like most decisions around pregnancy, this choice can be made more difficult by conflicting advice from friends, family, organisations and community groups, or people they connect with online.
Some people, knowingly or unknowingly, share incorrect information with women about the safety and efficacy of receiving vaccinations during pregnancy. This can create a lot of questions for pregnant women deciding whether to vaccinate. Below we’ve answered some of the most common questions to help clear the air and make the decision easier.
What vaccines should women receive during pregnancy?
In Australia, it is strongly recommended that women receive an influenza (flu) vaccination and a whooping cough vaccination during every pregnancy to protect themselves and their unborn babies against these serious infections. Influenza vaccine can be given at any time during every pregnancy and whooping cough vaccine should be given between 20 weeks and 32 weeks gestation of every pregnancy. These vaccines are provided to pregnant women for free by the government through the immunisation schedule.
What are the benefits to getting vaccinated during pregnancy?
Vaccines stimulate a response in your immune system to enable it to respond more effectively to a virus or bacteria if it comes into contact with it in future. Vaccines can prevent you from contracting a disease, or if you do get sick, can prevent you from experiencing severe illness.
The flu is a serious illness for pregnant women. During pregnancy, changes to the heart, lungs and immune system can make women more susceptible to becoming severely ill from the flu and developing serious side effects like pneumonia. This can be very dangerous for the pregnant woman and can cause premature labour.
When pregnant women get a flu or whooping cough vaccination, they can pass some protection against the disease through to their unborn baby. This gives the baby some protection against flu and whooping cough after they are born until they are old enough to be vaccinated. Infants can be vaccinated for whooping cough from 6 weeks of age, and from 6 months of age for flu.
Are influenza and whooping cough vaccines safe for pregnant women?
Yes. Scientific evidence supports the safety of flu and whooping cough vaccines for pregnant women and their babies. Studies show that vaccination during pregnancy is safe for pregnant women; there is no evidence of an increased risk of adverse events related to pregnancy; no evidence of an increased risk of stillbirth; and the vaccines are effective in offering some protection for babies.
Is the chance of an adverse event following immunisation too great to risk?
It is understandable that you might be concerned about adverse events that might harm you or your baby’s health. While the risk of having an adverse event following vaccination that will harm you or your baby is extremely low, the chance that you or your baby will come into contact with flu or whooping cough is much higher.
Adverse events to vaccinations are taken very seriously by health authorities. In Queensland, immunisation providers are required to report all adverse events to the Department of Health. All adverse event reports are collected nationally by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) who monitor their occurrence across the country for all medications and vaccines that have been cleared for use.
If you have any questions about vaccination during pregnancy, there are a number of different people and organisations you can speak to. Speak with your obstetrician, GP, midwife, nurse, or call 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84) for health information, or to be referred to a service provider in your area.
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