Protect Your Newborn From Whooping Cough

Whooping cough vaccination during pregnancy can protect your newborn from day one.

Whooping cough (also known as pertussis) is a highly infectious bacterial disease that causes severe bouts of coughing. In adults, the symptoms can be mild, but if the infection is spread to a baby who is not yet vaccinated, it can be life threatening.

NSW experiences epidemics of whooping cough every few years. Whooping cough is spread easily by coughing, and babies are at risk of severe illness if infected. Older children and adults can often get whooping cough too and they can pass the infection on to babies.

The best ways to protect your baby from whooping cough are:

Vaccinate your baby on time. Your baby will have the best protection after he or she has received all 3 doses of whooping cough vaccine:

  • the first dose can be given as early as 6 weeks of age
  • the second dose should be given at 4 months of age
  • the third dose should be given at 6 months of age

All children in your household should be up to date with their whooping cough vaccines. Children require boosters at 3½ years of age and in high school.
Keep your baby away from anyone with a cough.
Anyone with symptoms of whooping cough should see their doctor for diagnosis and treatment.
Studies have found that whooping cough vaccination during pregnancy is safe and effective for both the mother and baby. Vaccination during pregnancy (preferably at 28 weeks) means your body produces antibodies that get passed on to your baby before birth. These antibodies will protect your baby until they are ready to receive their own vaccinations at 6 weeks of age.

Is the vaccination safe?
Yes, the vaccine is safe for both the pregnant woman and baby when given during pregnancy. Studies from the US and UK involving more than 40,000 pregnant women found only mild side effects such as pain or redness in the arm where the vaccination was given. It doesn’t increase the risk of serious pregnancy complications such as prematurity and the National Health and Medical Research Council has recently updated recommendations for pregnant women to be vaccinated in their third trimester.

I am pregnant, what do I need to do?
Talk to your doctor today about getting free whooping cough vaccine in your third trimester.
The immunity you get from the whooping cough vaccine fades over time so you need to be vaccinated during each pregnancy at around 28 weeks.

It is also important that those who will be closest to your baby in the first weeks of life also receive a whooping cough vaccine. Make sure your other children are up to date with their vaccines and ask carers and close family members who have not had a whooping cough vaccine in the past 10 years to make sure that they are vaccinated at least two weeks before they have any contact with your baby.

The free whooping cough vaccine during pregnancy is the best way to protect your newborn from day one. Talk to your doctor today about vaccinations.

If you are planning a pregnancy or already pregnant, talk to your GP, Aboriginal Medical Service or other provider about what vaccines you need while you are pregnant.

You can also protect yourself and your baby from the dangerous effects of the flu during pregnancy by asking your doctor for the flu vaccine which can be given at any stage during your pregnancy.

More information:

FACT SHEET: Protect your newborn from whooping cough
BROCHURE: Protection and vaccination from preconception to birth

The Science of Immunisation Questions & Answers by Australian Academy of Science