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The whooping cough (pertussis) vaccine is offered to all pregnant women between 16 and 32 weeks of pregnancy to protect their babies from this serious disease.
Whooping cough is spread by breathing in small droplets in the air from other people’s coughs and sneezes. Babies under six months old are at most risk. It can be very serious and lead to pneumonia and permanent brain damage. Young babies with whooping cough are at risk of dying from the disease.
The protection you receive from the whooping cough vaccine passes on to your unborn baby and protects the baby in the first few weeks of their life, until they receive their first routine immunisation when they are two months old. The vaccine also protects you from getting whooping cough and lowers the risk of you passing it on to your baby.
This vaccine is given to help protect you and your baby against whooping cough.
You can find more information on the vaccine and the disease it protects against at NHS 111 Wales - Vaccinations (external site).
All pregnant women can have the vaccine, from week 16 of their pregnancy. It is better to have the vaccine between 16 and 32 weeks of pregnancy. The vaccine can be given after 32 weeks, but as the body needs time to make antibodies to be passed on to the unborn baby, it may not give your baby the same protection. It is important to be vaccinated in every pregnancy, even if you have had the vaccine before.
If you did not have the whooping cough vaccine in pregnancy, you can still have it in the two months following the birth (until your child receives their first routine dose). This will protect you and may prevent you from becoming a source of infection for your baby, although it will not directly protect the baby. If you are breastfeeding, there is no evidence of any risk to the baby.
Your baby will still need to be vaccinated against whooping cough when they are eight weeks old. The whooping cough vaccination is offered to all babies as part of the NHS routine vaccination schedule (‘6-in-1’ vaccine).
The Complete Routine Immunisation Schedule (PDF) includes information about routine and non-routine vaccinations.
Healthcare workers can be an important source of infection to babies. Healthcare workers who have direct contact with pregnant women or babies and have not had a whooping cough vaccine in the last five years are eligible for one as part of their occupational health care.
There is no evidence of the vaccine being a risk to the pregnant woman, the pregnancy or the baby. It is not a live vaccine, so you cannot get whooping cough from it. A study was carried out on nearly 18,000 vaccinated women by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) in 2014. This study found no risks to pregnancy with the vaccine, and the rates of normal, healthy babies were no different to women who were unvaccinated. The vaccines are highly effective and have excellent safety records.
GP practices and some antenatal clinics will give the vaccine. If you are 16 weeks pregnant and have not been offered the vaccine, talk to your midwife or GP surgery to make an appointment to get vaccinated.
Whooping cough vaccines given to pregnant women are well tolerated. The most common side effects are soreness and redness at the site of the injection. This should only last a few days.
Other reactions are rare. For more information on common and rare side effects, see:
If you are concerned about symptoms, call NHS 111 Wales (external site). Calls to NHS 111 Wales are free from landlines and mobile phones.
You can report suspected side effects of vaccines and medicines through the Yellow Card scheme. You can do this online at mhra.gov.uk/yellowcard or by calling the Yellow Card scheme hotline on 0800 731 6789 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm).
It is important that you are alert to the signs and symptoms of whooping cough in your baby. These may include severe coughing fits, which may include pauses in breathing in young infants, vomiting after coughing, and a ‘whoop’ sound while coughing. If you are worried that your baby may have whooping cough, you should contact your doctor straight away.
If you would like to learn more about the vaccine or the disease it protects against, you can talk to your midwife, doctor or practice nurse.
A few information resources are available to help. You can also call NHS 111 or your GP practice for advice if you have any questions.
For further information about vaccinations in pregnancy, see:
To order copies of the leaflet, visit the Health Information Resources page.
For other formats of these leaflets, visit phw.nhs.wales/vaccines/accessible-information