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by Kathryn Thomson

Chief Executive

Protecting your unborn child against whooping cough

We know that some of you who are pregnant are worried at the moment about the increase in cases of whooping cough, locally and nationally. You may be anxious about how you can protect your unborn baby after birth. Babies who are too young to have the vaccine are at greatest risk so it is vital that pregnant women take action to protect them by having the whooping cough vaccine themselves.

While newborns cannot be vaccinated against the disease until they are two months old, you can give them some protection in those vital early weeks by having the vaccine during 28 to 38 weeks of your pregnancy. This helps boost the short-term immunity passed on by mothers to their babies while still in the womb. As the immunity passes across the placenta, your baby will be born with a degree of inbuilt protection.

As a Trust delivering more babies than anyone else in the area, we are working hard to raise awareness amongst our antenatal patients about the urgency of having this vaccine as soon as they reach 28 weeks of pregnancy. While we do not administer the vaccine ourselves, we are urging patients to speak to their GPs and midwives about it as soon as possible so this can be arranged. In keeping with the advice of the Health Protection Agency (HPA) and the Department of Health's national campaign, we advise all pregnant women to take up this offer of vaccination as it could save babies' lives.

The HPA stresses that the vaccine poses no danger to pregnant women or to their unborn child. By having it they will have the peace of mind of knowing that they are doing the best possible thing to protect their baby, even before he or she is born. When baby is two months old, he or she should be taken for their first vaccination as the one given during pregnancy will only offer them protection for a short time.

07 December 2012