Why are vaccines important to pregnant women?

While you are pregnant your immune system is weaker. This means that you have a higher chance of picking up bacterial and viral infections; even if you are usually fit and healthy.

Vaccinations are a very safe and effective way of keeping you, your baby and your growing family healthy and safe.

Some vaccine-preventable diseases can pose serious risk to your health and that of your developing baby. At the moment we are most concerned about rubella (German measles), measles, flu (influenza) and whooping cough (pertussis) as there is a lot of this around at the moment.

When you are injected with a vaccine, your body starts creating antibodies which build up over 1-2 weeks. These are your fighter cells that come into force when your body comes in contact with infections.

Following a vaccine, your blood contains lots of antibodies and should you come in contact with the actual infection, your body is ready to fight it. This means either:

  • You will not get the infection at all (most likely) or
  • You may get the infection but it will be milder and you will overcome it quicker

The antibodies produced when you get vaccinated cross the placenta. This means that when your baby is born, they are already protected against infections, even before they are old enough to get vaccinated themselves. This is one of the only ways of protecting extremely young babies against vaccine preventable infections (because the first routine immunisations that babies receive are at 8 weeks of life).

You baby will start their own vaccinations against preventable infections at around 8 weeks of age. Their immune system will be too weak to start their vaccinations before this point and they would not create the protection (antibodies) they need. Therefore, unless you have had the vaccinations in pregnancy, your baby will not be protected until they start having their own vaccinations.