Protecting your unborn baby from whooping cough
The only way you can help protect your baby from getting whooping cough in their first few vulnerable weeks of life is by having the whooping cough vaccine yourself when you're pregnant.
Recent deaths in babies in the UK, where mothers have not received the vaccine, highlights the importance that pregnant women get vaccinated. The disease is especially severe in newborn babies who are most at risk in their first few weeks, when they're too young to start their own vaccinations.
When to get the vaccine
The best time to get vaccinated to protect your baby is from 20 weeks of pregnancy, up to 32 weeks.
The immunity you get from the vaccine passes onto your baby through the placenta. That’s why we recommend women have the vaccine in each and every pregnancy.
The vaccine is highly effective and evidence tells us it's safe for you and your baby when given in pregnancy. It also protects against polio, diphtheria and tetanus.
Whooping cough vaccination in pregnancy on NHS website
Where to get the vaccine
Once you've had your 20 week scan, make an appointment with your GP to have the vaccine.
You won't have to pay for the vaccine, but your GP may charge you a consultation fee, or this may be included in your package of care. Check with your surgery for more information.
What is whooping cough?
Whooping cough (also known as pertussis) is a bacterial infection of the lungs and airways that causes long bouts of coughing and choking, making it hard to breathe. It's sometimes called the ‘100 day cough’ as it lasts for around two or three months.
In adolescents and adults, whooping cough often appears to be just a troublesome cough but in babies, it can be extremely serious. Young babies with whooping cough are often very unwell and most will be admitted to hospital. It can cause life-threatening complications and when it's particularly severe, they can die.
It's highly contagious and is spread by coughs, sneezes and close contact. Many babies who get whooping cough have caught it from a family member.
Whooping cough on NHS website
Vaccinating your baby from two months
Your baby is old enough to start having their own vaccinations when they're two months of age.
To make sure your baby is fully protected from whooping cough throughout their childhood, they'll be given three vaccine doses at age two, three and four months.
After they're vaccinated, full protection should take effect by the time they're five months of age. By getting vaccinated when you're pregnant, you protect your baby against whooping cough during the period between birth and five months of age.
More information about the childhood immunisation schedule is available on the baby / child immunisations page.
Baby / child immunisations