Immunisation can protect a pregnant woman and her unborn baby from infectious diseases. Some infectious diseases can cause serious harm to pregnant women or their unborn babies. Ideally, women should be up to date with their immunisations before they become pregnant and all women should receive influenza and whooping cough vaccines during every pregnancy.
Vaccines can protect against many infectious diseases such as chickenpox, influenza, measles, mumps, rubella (German measles), diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough (pertussis), pneumococcal disease and hepatitis B. Serious side effects or allergic reactions to vaccines are rare.
Risk of infectious diseases during pregnancy
If a pregnant woman becomes infected with some diseases, her unborn baby can be harmed. Newborn children can also be harmed if their mothers have an infection.
Examples of infections that are harmful to babies include:
- Rubella – can cause defects in the brain, heart, eyes and ears of the baby and increases the risk of miscarriage and stillbirth.
- Chickenpox – can cause defects in the brain, eyes, skin and limbs of the baby.
- Measles – increases the risk of miscarriage, premature birth or stillbirth.
- Mumps – increases the risk of miscarriage.
- Hepatitis B – can cause acute hepatitis B infection that can be passed on to the baby during birth, and both mother and baby have the potential to become ‘carriers’ of hepatitis B (the virus is not cleared from the body).
- Influenza – increases the risk of miscarriage, premature birth or stillbirth and increases the risk of severe illness and death in the mother.
- Whooping cough (pertussis) – can cause pneumonia, seizures, encephalopathy and the death of the baby.