Whooping cough vaccination during pregnancy

Whooping cough vaccination is needed for each pregnancy

Whooping cough and pregnancy

For pregnant women, the whooping cough vaccine (dTpa) is recommended between 20 and 32 weeks. The vaccine is safe, free and the most effective way to protect your baby until they are old enough to be vaccinated at six weeks.  

Whooping cough and babies

Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is a lung infection caused by bacteria (Bordetella pertussis). It is very easy to catch and pass on. Whooping cough can affect people of any age. It can cause serious and sometimes life-threatening health issues in babies and young children, especially those who are not fully vaccinated. When babies catch whooping cough, the symptoms can be serious. Young babies could get pneumonia (lung infection), have coughing fits and many have trouble breathing. Many babies who get whooping cough end up in hospital, and sadly, some of these babies die. The Australian National Health and Medical Research Council recommend pregnant women are vaccinated against whooping cough between 20 and 32 weeks in every pregnancy, even if they have had the vaccine before.

Protecting mum, protecting baby

Whooping cough vaccination for pregnant women helps in two ways:  

Protects mum

It helps protect mum from catching whooping cough and passing it on to baby. After getting vaccinated, mum’s body creates antibodies which protect her from whooping cough and reduces the risk of passing it on to baby.    

Protects baby

Babies born to mothers who have been vaccinated against whooping cough in pregnancy have more antibodies against the disease than babies whose mothers weren’t vaccinated. Mum’s antibodies are passed to baby across the placenta soon after she is vaccinated. The antibodies can protect baby after birth until they are old enough to get vaccinated from 6 weeks. These antibodies can also protect baby from some serious health problems caused by whooping cough, such as pneumonia and encephalopathy (disease of the brain).

Safe for mum, safe for baby

The whooping cough vaccine is an inactivated vaccine, so it is safe for pregnant women and their babies. Studies show that there is no increased risk of stillbirth, foetal distress, low birth weight or other health risks for women who are vaccinated against whooping cough during pregnancy.* The benefits of vaccination during pregnancy are well recognised and all Australian health departments fund the vaccine for pregnant women. It is also promoted and used for pregnant women in New Zealand, United States, UK and Canada. Sukumaran L, McCarthy NL, Kharbanda EO, et al. Association of Tdap Vaccination With Acute Events and Adverse Birth Outcomes Among Pregnant Women With Prior Tetanus-Containing Immunizations. JAMA.2015;314(15):1581-1587.  Donegan K, King B, Bryan P. Safety of pertussis vaccination in pregnant women in UK: observational study. British Medical Journal [serial online] 2014 July [cited 2015 March 2]; 349: g4219. Find research about the whooping cough (pertussis) vaccine for pregnant women.

Get your free vaccine 

The whooping cough vaccine is provided by the Australian government as part of the National Immunisation Program to women between 20 and 32 weeks pregnant. Make an appointment today:

  • with your GP
  • via some local councils (ring your local council for details).

Please note: your GP may charge a consultation fee but the vaccine will be free.

Common questions

I have had whooping cough before, do I still need to get vaccinated? Yes. Anyone who has had whooping cough before can still become reinfected and spread the infection to others, including baby. Can I be vaccinated against whooping cough and the flu at the same time? Yes. You can get vaccinated for whooping cough and the flu at the same time or at different times during your pregnancy. The flu vaccine is different each year and is usually available from April (but check with your GP when making an appointment). While whooping cough vaccination is given to women between 20 and 32 weeks in each pregnancy, you can be vaccinated for the flu at any time during pregnancy. Pregnant women should not wait until they are 20 weeks to have the flu vaccination, especially during flu season. Read more Find out more Visit www.qld.gov.au/health/conditions/immunisation/increased-risk/pregnant-breastfeed