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Immunisations During Pregnancy

During pregnancy there are some immunisations that are strongly recommended to protect both the pregnant women and their unborn baby.  Your immune system is weakened during pregnancy and illnesses are more likely to become serious.

It is still important that pregnant women go for the recommended immunisations during the coronavirus outbreak. It is even more important that we do as much as we can to reduce the risk of getting serious illnesses during the pandemic.

You should go to your appointments as planned. If you have COVID-19 symptoms - a high temperature and/or new cough - you should not attend. If you do have any symptoms you should contact your GP or midwife for advice and to rearrange.

  

All pregnant women are recommended to have the flu vaccine (in flu season) and the whooping cough (pertussis) vaccine when they are between 16 and 32 weeks pregnant. Your midwife will talk to you about this and any other vaccinations recommended for you. You can read more about the importance of these below.

  • The early vaccines for COVID-19 have been shown to be safe and effective, but it has not yet been fully assessed in pregnancy. Early studies suggest that the vaccine is safe for pregnant women, but advice from health experts is that most women who are pregnant should not have this vaccine until more information has become available. 

    For some pregnant women it may still be important to have the vaccine. This includes women who are at very high risk of catching the infection or those with conditions that put them at high risk of suffering serious complications from COVID-19.

    In these circumstances, you should discuss vaccination with your doctor or nurse, and you may feel that it is better to go ahead and receive the protection from the vaccine.

    The current COVID-19 vaccination advice for most women during pregnancy is;

    • If you are pregnant you should not be vaccinated unless you are at high risk – you can be vaccinated after your pregnancy is over.
    • If you have had the first dose and then become pregnant you should delay the second dose until after the pregnancy is over (unless you are at high risk).

    The current COVID-19 vaccination advice for whilst breastfeeding is;

    The COVID-19 vaccine is not thought to be a risk when breastfeeding and the benefits of breast-feeding are well known. It is recommended that the vaccine can be received whilst breastfeeding. This is in line with advice from the World Health Organisation.

    The guidance is changing regularly so it may soon be possible to have a COVID-19 vaccine that becomes available soon. To check the latest up to date advice *click here*.

    The Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists (RCOG) also has up to date advice for pregnant women, *click here* to find out more.

  • Flu is easily passed around and is more risky to pregnant women because of the weaker immune system. There is a higher risk of pneumonia because during later pregnancy, it is harder to take deep breaths to keep the lungs clear. Flu can be serious for unborn and new born babies; when mum’s protect themselves they protect their baby too.

    The immunisation can be given at any time in pregnancy. It is available from September and through the winter months. It reduces the risk of complications if you do get flu.

  • Whooping cough is very infectious. It causes long coughing and choking episodes. It lasts for 2 to 3 months. It is hard to catch your breath and that causes a ‘whooping’ sound. It is especially dangerous in the first year of life. It can cause brain damage and even death.

    Mum’s to be are offered the immunisation to protect themselves and their baby from week 16 of pregnancy. Even if you had the whooping cough immunisation as a child you should have it again to get your protection to the maximum level. When you have the immunisation you pass the protective antibodies onto your baby. This will help to protect them until they can have their own vaccinations against whooping cough at 8 weeks old.

  • Rubella is very dangerous to unborn babies. ‘Congenital rubella syndrome’ can cause serious developmental problems for unborn babies and even death. It can cause sight, hearing and heart problems.

    If you are planning to get pregnant you should check if you have had the rubella vaccination. You can contact your GP surgery who will check if you have had the two necessary injections to protect you. If you haven’t, or they cannot be sure, you will be offered the vaccinations.

    If you are already pregnant you cannot have this vaccination until after the baby is born. It will be offered to you at your 6 week postnatal check and the second dose a month later. Some pregnant women will be offered additional vaccinations in pregnancy.

  • Hepatitis B can cause long term liver damage. All babies are now offered hepatitis B protection alongside routine vaccinations.

    If you are pregnant and are considered at a high risk of the virus you will be offered this in pregnancy, and your baby be offered early vaccination. *Click Here*  to find out more about who is at high risk. You can talk to your midwife about this.

  • TB mostly affects the lungs but can affect other parts of the body. It can take a a long while to show after you have been infected. So it is hard to know if you have spent time with someone infectious.

    If you are planning a pregnancy you should check with your GP if you have been vaccinated in the past. You can then have the injections before you try to become pregnant.

    You cannot have the vaccine if you are already pregnant. All babies who are considered at a higher risk of TB are offered the BCG vaccination after birth.

    You are considered at a higher risk if you, your parents or grandparents have lived in a high risk area. Some of these areas are in the UK and some are abroad. *Click Here* check high risk areas. If you are unsure about whether your baby will need an early BCG vaccination – speak to your midwife, or GP.

  • During your pregnancy you should take extra care if you think you may have come into contact with anyone with an infectious disease and / or if you have a rash.

    You should get in touch with your GP or Midwife for advice when you become aware of this. They will advise you on what, if anything you should do next.

    Let the health professional you speak to know;

    • How many weeks pregnant you are.
    • What you think you may have been exposed to and when you last saw the person or noticed the rash.
    • What the rash looks like.
    • What illnesses you have been vaccinated for and which illnesses you have or have not had (e.g. Chicken pox, Measles). 

Who can Help?

If you feel worried and want more advice you can speak to your midwife.

You can contact the Healthy Child Programme by calling Just One Number on 0300 300 0123 or texting Parentline on 07520 631590. Our opening hours are 8am-6pm Monday-Friday (excluding bank holidays) and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.

If you are 11-19 you can text Chathealth on 07480 635060 for confidential advice from one of the Healthy Child Programme team.

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