The vaccinations that expectant mothers receive during pregnancy play a vital role in the protection and care of the soon-to-be arriving baby as well as the mother herself. Timing and research matter when it comes to ensuring that both mum and bub are protected when they are both at their most vulnerable.
Immunisation against certain illnesses serves as a safeguard against harmful viral strains and it’s important to know about them.
DID YOU KNOW: Vaccinations during pregnancy protects the woman during the prenatal period and in the early months of motherhood. As babies cannot be vaccinated against Influenza or Whooping cough in the first 6 months, the mother’s immunisation protects the young infant by transplacental antibodies (mum produces antibodies that will be passed on through the placenta to the unborn baby) and also through antibodies in breast milk when the infant is born.
Why do pregnant mothers need to be immunised?
When you’re pregnant, you’re particularly vulnerable to some nasty strains of illnesses. During pregnancy, your immune system is naturally weaker. Pregnant mothers often notice that they catch colds more easily and feel ‘under the weather’ more often than they did before they were pregnant. When it comes to serious illnesses, in particular, whooping cough (otherwise known as pertussis) or influenza, precautions need to be taken. These illnesses can take quite a sinister turn when a pregnant mother is exposed to these potentially deadly (yet preventable) viruses.
If you have any questions about these illnesses, speak with your GP or obstetrician early in your pregnancy. They can advise you as to the best course of action to ensure that you are immunised as soon as possible. You can be immunised at any point in your pregnancy for influenza and after 28 weeks for whooping cough.
You can find information about other immunisations recommended by the Australian Government at this link.
Preventative Action Matters
Vaccination protects both you AND your baby. They’re nationally approved, safe and free under the National Immunisation Program.
While you’re taking your own precautions, talk to those closest to you about getting immunised as well. A newborn is the most vulnerable member of our society and those who will be in contact with your bundle of joy should be up to date with their immunisations so that no virus strains are passed on to your helpless bub.
The vaccinations will continue to protect the mother as she enters her new chapter of life with newborn in tow. As she recovers from childbirth, it’s important that she’s protected while in her vulnerable state for the first few months. Whooping cough and influenza are not to be trifled with – far better to be safe than sorry!
What are the immunisations available during pregnancy?
The DTaP vaccine protects against whooping cough and diphtheria – both of which could have potentially devastating impacts on an unborn or newborn child.
Influenza Vaccines change from year to year as the virus shifts and changes with different strains (and different severities) playing out across the country.
Both whooping cough and influenza can be deadly. There are a wide number of deaths as a direct result of both diseases each year. Many of these deaths would have been completely preventable had appropriate immunisation schedules and precautions been followed.
As has previously been mentioned, ensuring that visitors and close family members are up to date with these vaccinations is key to protecting both mother and child. Babies have been lost to these illnesses as a direct result of those who are ill coming into direct contact with the child. This is not a chance that should be taken – it’s up to the individual to protect themselves and their children from harm.
Baby Riley was lost to whooping cough at just four weeks of age in 2015. You can find the Hughes’ family’s story here.
Opposition to Immunisation
There are those who are opposed to immunisations, particularly vaccinations during pregnancy. This vocal minority claims that immunisations are not necessary, are harmful or cause autism.
There is no scientific evidence or data to support any of these claims. The idea that ‘herd immunity’ will protect unvaccinated children is fast becoming problematic. The proportion of the population which must be immunised in order to achieve herd immunity varies for each disease but the underlying idea is simple: once enough people are protected, they help to protect vulnerable members of their communities by reducing the spread of the disease. These include: children who are too young to be vaccinated, people with immune system problems, and those who are too ill to receive vaccines (such as some cancer patients).
In Australia, we are seeing the rise of illnesses that were previously close to being wiped out as more and more people jump on the anti-vax bandwagon.
For example, an 11-month-old Sydney baby recently contracted measles just two months before he was due to be vaccinated. Liam Eldridge developed a high fever and a rash after visiting family in the Philippines. An outbreak in that country has so far killed more than 315 people this year. Experts have warned Australia cannot afford to let immunisation rates fall as measles remains a major problem in other countries.
If you are unsure whether or not vaccinations are safe, make sure that you are sourcing your information from a reliable source. Talking to a medical professional instead of relying on dubious sites on the internet or chat forums is the first step in making sure that you’re working with correct information that is supported by science.
Vaccinations During Pregnancy
Bringing a new baby into the world is a time of joy and excitement. Protecting that child and their mother, should be of primary concern to every family. Ensuring that the mother receives appropriate vaccinations during pregnancy means that both mum and bub are primed to take confident steps towards health and happiness.
Questions About Immunisations
Speak with your GP, obstetrician or midwife if you have any questions about immunisations during your pregnancy.
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