Pregnant women are advised to get their whooping cough vaccination 20 weeks into their pregnancy, according to new national guidelines.

The change means mums-to-be will be receiving the shot eight weeks earlier than previously recommended. But, according to health authorities, being immunised is the best prevention.

In the past, pregnant women have been encouraged to get the whooping cough vaccination at 28 weeks. This is an initiative that gained a lot of momentum following the devastating death of Riley Hughes, who contracted whooping cough at three-weeks-old.

Symptoms of whooping cough include flu-like symptoms, such as a blocked or runny nose, sneezing, fever and cough. The cough is distinct; it sounds like a ‘whoop’ or is followed by a ‘whooping noise’ and vomiting.

The cough is particularly dangerous in babies, as they can experience pauses in their breathing or turn blue. They may also have trouble feeding.

Whooping cough is highly contagious and kills approximately 250,000 kids worldwide each year.

baby with whooping cough

What the new guidelines have to say

The new guidelines were introduced on Tuesday by The National Department of Health. While pregnant women are familiar with former advice, they are urged to be vigilant and to share with others the new recommendation of getting the shot at 20 weeks.

After reviewing the evidence, the optimal timing to receive the vaccine has been revised and pregnant women can now receive the vaccine earlier to maximise protection for their infant if he or she is born preterm.

The vaccine is free for pregnant women so I urge all expectant mothers to speak to their midwife or obstetrician about getting immunised. – Nicola Spurrier

SA Health’s Acting Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Nicola Spurrier strongly encourages pregnant women to get the jab. She explains that vaccinating during pregnancy reduces babies’ risk of contracting whooping cough by 90%.

Babies less than six months of age are too young to be fully immunised against whooping cough and are at higher risk of severe disease, so it is important for mum to receive the vaccine which gives babies some protection” 

By having the shot earlier, pre-term babies receive further protection.

free whooping cough vaccine for pregnant women

Protection through vaccination is everyone’s responsibility

While pregnant women should ensure they get the shot in the recommended time-frame, it is also important that anyone coming into close contact with babies under six-months-old are also immunised.

Women’s and Children’s Hospital nurse consultant, Breda MacDonald explains,

Family members, particularly parents, are the source of infection in infants in more than 50 percent of cases, so we strongly encourage anyone who is coming into close contact with babies to have the shot.”

The whooping cough vaccine should be given in each pregnancy, even pregnancies close together, to give the best protection for each baby.” – Macdonald


If you’re pregnant but haven’t yet had a whooping cough vaccine, talk to your local healthcare professional.

Author

A basketball-playing, Doctor Who-watching, high school teaching, mother of two pantless bandits. When she isn't writing, you can bet she is probably doing the sniff test on her kids.

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