Pregnant women have an altered immune system, which allows the " foreign" baby to grow within the womb. These immune changes mean pregnant women are at increased risk of complications from certain infectious diseases. Newborns are also vulnerable to certain infections and do not respond to vaccines until their immune systems mature when they are a few months old. Pregnancy does provide a mechanism for transferring  the mother's antibodies via the placenta, especially from the 28th week.

Influenza is potentially serious during pregnancy. Pregnant women are 5 times more likely to be hospitalised during the flu season compared to those who are not pregnant. Having the flu during pregnancy increases the chances of stillbirth and preterm delivery. The influenza vaccine also protects the infant against influenza for the first 6 months after birth due to transplacental transfer of antibodies. The timing of the vaccination depends on the time of year relative to the influenza season. The risk to the mother of complications from influenza increases in the later stages of pregnancy. Influenza vaccination can be given during any stage of pregnancy.

Pertussis ( whooping cough) appears no more serious in pregnancy than when non-pregnant, but is extremely serious in the first three months of life, where the baby has the highest risk of dying. More than 80% of all death from pertussis occur in children less than three months of age. Recent studies from the UK indicate that vaccinating women in the 3rd trimester of pregnancy can protect more than 90% of pertussis infection among infants during the first few months of age. The vaccine may be given at any time during the third trimester, but the optimal  time is between 28 and 32 weeks of pregnancy

Despite the benefits of vaccination during pregnancy, many pregnant women miss out on being protected. In Western Australia the influenza vaccine uptake in 2015 rose to 55% and the pertussis vaccination to 58%.( 13 000 doses have been administered, with no report of adverse outcomes)

Immunisation during pregnancy offers improved protection to babies compared to other preventive strategies. Both vaccines now have good evidence of their safety in pregnancy and are included in the Australian and WHO recommendations . ( Both vaccines are freely available to pregnant women and are recommended in every pregnancy as maternal antibody level falls sharply in the first year after vaccination. (

Family members who will have contact with the woman and new baby, including the baby's father, should all ensure their recommended vaccinations are up-to-date, these include : chickenpox, measles, mums, rubella and pertussis.

Perth baby Riley Hughes died due to pertussis in March last year. His mother, Catherine Hughes has recently recorder two interviews of her story available at

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