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Pregnancy: Flu, Whooping Cough & German Measles

What is flu (influenza)?

Flu is a highly infectious disease with symptoms such as fever, chills, aches and pains in joints and muscles, headaches and extreme tiredness. Serious infections are less common in healthy adults, however can sometimes lead to hospitalisation, permanent disability and even death. Risk of complications from flu such as pneumonia is increased in pregnant women as the immune system is naturally weakened.

What is whooping cough (pertussis)?

Whooping cough can cause long bursts of coughing and choking, often resulting in difficulty breathing. The infection, which is very contagious and commonly lasts between two and three months, can be particularly serious in babies under one year of age. In severe cases it can lead to pneumonia, permanent brain damage and occasionally death.

What is German measles (rubella)?

Congenital rubella syndrome (CRS) is a serious condition that can affect babies if German measles is contracted during pregnancy. CRS can lead to deafness, cataracts, blindness, heart problems and can result in the death of the baby or termination.

When should I be vaccinated?

Flu - The flu vaccination is usually available from the end of September each year and is free for pregnant women. It is safe to have at any time during pregnancy and takes approximately 14 days to provide protection.

Whooping cough - Vaccination is recommended from the 16th week of pregnancy or soon after your scan, as this will provide optimum protection for your baby. It is important that newborns go on to have routine whooping cough vaccines at 8, 12 and 16 weeks old. You will also need a new vaccination during any subsequent pregnancies, even if you have had the disease in the past, as any protecting properties will wear off over time. 

German measles – You should have routinely had two doses of a rubella containing vaccine in the past. If this is not the case, then the ‘MMR’ (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccination can be administered up to one month before pregnancy. In situations where this is not possible, you will be provided with two doses of the vaccine once you have given birth. It is not advised that you become pregnant until at least one month after the second vaccination.

Can I breastfeed following vaccination?

Yes, it is safe to breastfeed your baby after having all three vaccinations (flu, whooping cough and MMR).

Other vaccinations to discuss with your midwife

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