Immunisations and Pregnancy: vaccines women need before and during pregnancy

Top Obstetrician: ‘Many mums-to-be are often not aware that there are vaccinations they should have before they conceive.’

Editor / April 29 2020

Evidence shows that a woman’s immune system is naturally weaker than usual when pregnant. If you are expecting a child, this means you are susceptible to certain infections that can be harmful to you and your developing baby. 

Dr Karen Sheng, Obstetrician at Sydney’s Mater Hospital, says that to minimise these risks, it is recommended that pregnant women are fully immunised against several common infections, and that by doing so, you will pass immunity onto your baby. This will provide your child with protection against these infections for the first few months of their life before they are old enough to be vaccinated themselves. 



Dr Sheng shares her recommendations on vaccines women need before and during pregnancy, as many mums-to-be are often not aware that there are vaccinations they should have before they conceive.

Immunisations prior to pregnancy

If you are planning to have a baby, speak to your doctor about updating your immunisations before you become pregnant. This includes immunisations or booster for the following:

  • Rubella: Rubella infection during pregnancy can cause serious defects in an unborn baby and increases the risk of miscarriage and stillbirth. It is recommended that women wait four weeks after receiving the Rubella vaccine before trying to fall pregnant.

  • Chickenpox: Chickenpox infection during pregnancy can cause severe illness in a mother and her unborn child. Like Rubella, it is recommended that you wait four weeks after receiving this vaccine before trying to get pregnant.

  • 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 you can pass on to your baby during birth.

  • Pneumococcal: This vaccination is recommended for smokers and people with chronic heart, lung or kidney disease, or diabetes. It provides protection against serious illness caused by pneumococcal disease, which can affect the lungs, ears, sinuses, and brain and can often lead to pneumonia.



Immunisations that are safe during pregnancy

Vaccinations for influenza and whooping cough (pertussis) are the only immunisations which are considered safe to have during pregnancy.

  • Influenza: For pregnant women, the risk of serious complications from the flu are up to five times higher than normal. Because of this, the flu vaccine is recommended and free for all pregnant women in Australia. 

    Remember, getting the flu vaccine during your pregnancy will also provide ongoing protection to your newborn for the first few months after birth, and getting vaccinated every year protects you and your family against new strains of the virus.


  • Whooping cough, or pertussis, can cause serious illness and even death in babies less than six months old. The whooping cough vaccine is recommended for all pregnant women as a single dose between 20 and 32 weeks and is free of charge in most states.



Protecting yourself and your baby during COVID-19

While a vaccine for COVID-19 is being developed, pregnant women can best protect themselves and their baby by staying at home as much as possible, practising good hand hygiene, and keeping their distance from those who are sick. Making the right choices when it comes to diet, exercise and consulting with specialists will also ensure the health of your baby.

If you are pregnant and have any questions about vaccinations, or would like to book a prenatal health check-up, be sure to contact your GP or obstetrician who will be able to guide you.

About Dr Karen Sheng

Dr Karen Sheng is a certified Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at the Mater Hospital specialising in both high- and low-risk pregnancies.


Michelle Connolly has worked as a photo director, social media manager and photo editor at some of Australia's biggest media companies, including New Idea. She is now editor of Practical Parenting and loving mum-of-two.