Protect Your Baby by Immunising During Pregnancy

The Immunisation Advisory Centre explain why you should strongly consider immunising during your pregnancy –  to protect the health of you and your baby

5 min read

 Pregnancy –  Expert Article by

Protect Your Baby by Immunising During Pregnancy



You’re pregnant! Congratulations. You probably have a fierce desire to protect your unborn baby, and your body is going to go through some pretty cool changes to make this happen. 

But catching a disease while trying to grow a little human at the same time can be dangerous – for you and your baby.

You are eligible for two free vaccines during your pregnancy. Watch our video or read on below to learn why you should consider making an immunisation appointment. Have a chat with your doctor or midwife if you have any questions.

Why immunise during pregnancy?

Your body will change (er – a lot!) during pregnancy to help your developing baby. One of the changes is in the way your immune system works, and it may not protect you as quickly as usual against some illnesses. 

This means you can get very sick if you catch a disease such as influenza during this time. Much sicker than if you weren’t pregnant.  And if you are poorly, guess who else is affected? Yes, the little life growing inside you. Vaccination during pregnancy can help give you both protection.

Not only that,  getting immunised while pregnant provides your baby with some protection for their first few weeks of life before their own immunisations start.

How is your baby protected?

When you have a vaccine, it contains inactive or weakened bits of a disease. Your body y produces special protective proteins called antibodies that can help find and destroy the infection. Having antibodies ready can help you fight the real germ should you come in contact with it in the future.

The amazing thing is that your natural antibodies can pass across the placenta and circulate in your baby. So baby is also protected until they are vaccinated themselves and can make their own antibodies. The vaccine itself is used up very quickly and does not cross the placenta to your baby anyway.  

The 2 recommended vaccines for mums-to-be

Influenza vaccine

The influenza vaccine is recommended because the changes to mum’s body during pregnancy make it much more likely they could experience serious complications if they get the ‘flu.

A recent study here in New Zealand showed that a woman is five times more likely to be hospitalised with influenza if she is pregnant. Being sick affects your baby too, and they are more likely to be born premature, have a low birth weight or need intensive care.

Having the flu vaccine means you’re less likely to get the flu, and also means baby is much less likely to get it as well.

Immunising During Pregnancy

Whooping Cough

Whooping cough can be really dangerous for newborn babies as their airways can be badly affected – meaning they can’t breathe or feed. It can also lead to brain damage due to a lack of oxygen or toxic effects of the infection on the brain.

Really young babies who catch whooping cough have the highest risk of hospitalisation and death. In fact, half of all babies with whooping cough end up in hospital.

Whooping cough vaccination in pregnancy protects more than 9 out of 10 babies against getting whooping cough for the first vulnerable weeks until they are fully immunised, after 5 months of age.

It is really important not to delay giving your baby their first immunisations. By being immunised during pregnancy, you give your baby lots of the important antibodies needed to give them temporary protection. However, your baby’s immune system needs to learn to produce its own antibodies as soon as possible.

Vaccination during pregnancy is safe

Around the world, being immunised while pregnant has been recommended for more than 25 years. Heaps of research has looked at the health of mums and their babies when mum was immunised during pregnancy. Information from literally millions of pregnant women has been collected and analysed over the decades.

The results show us that the influenza and whooping cough vaccines are very safe for a pregnant woman and her unborn baby.

You can talk to your doctor or midwife if you have any more concerns – they will be happy to chat to you about this.

Helping protecting you and your baby from preventable diseases is FREE

Are you pregnant? You're eligible for free vaccines

 You can contact your doctor or LMC for more information and to make an appointment to get immunised during pregnancy.

Questions? Why not visit our website or call 0800 466 863 to speak to a trained nurse, or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Expert Profile: The Immunisation Advisory Centre

Providing evidence-based information on the benefits and risks of immunisation

We are based at the University of Auckland, and work towards having healthy communities protected from vaccine-preventable diseases. We provide national immunisation coordination, policy advice, information and training to health professionals and research many aspects of vaccines and vaccine-preventable diseases.

We want to ensure all New Zealanders have equitable access to immunisation services and resources.

Questions about immunisation or diseases?  You can call us free on: 0800 IMMUNE (0800 466 863), weekdays 9am-4.30 pm, or visit our website.


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