Healthy living

Whooping cough (pertussis) vaccine in pregnancy

  • Having the whooping cough vaccine during pregnancy is safe for both babies and mothers.
  • The most effective way to protect your baby against whooping cough during the first few months of their life is to be vaccinated against whooping cough while you are pregnant.
  • Whooping cough can be especially severe in infants under 12 months, causing breathing problems, pneumonia, and sometimes death.
  • The best time to get a whooping cough vaccination is between 20 to 32 weeks (in the second or third trimester).

Why should you get the whooping cough vaccine during pregnancy?
  • It helps protect the baby – You pass on protective antibodies through your placenta to your baby by getting vaccinated. This protects them in their first few months of their life, when they are most vulnerable to severe whooping cough infection and are too young to be vaccinated themselves. Babies born to mothers who have had a whooping cough vaccine in pregnancy have higher levels of antibodies against the disease than babies whose mothers were not vaccinated.
  • It helps protect you – The whooping cough vaccine reduces your risk of catching whooping cough and passing it on to your newborn baby. Parents are a common source of whooping cough infection for children under 12 months old so it's important to get vaccinated to protect them and minimise the chance of bringing whooping cough infection into the home.
When should I get vaccinated?

The optimal time for whooping cough vaccination is between 20 and 32 weeks of every pregnancy. This is when the transfer of protective antibodies from you to your baby is most effective and provides the best protection for your baby after birth.

It is also recommended to get the whooping cough vaccine in every pregnancy, including pregnancies which are closely spaced, for example, under 2 years apart.

Is it safe to get the whooping cough vaccine while I’m pregnant?

Yes. The whooping cough vaccine is safe and recommended.

The whooping cough vaccine has been used routinely in pregnant women in the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States (US) since 2012 and careful monitoring of this practice indicates that the vaccine is safe for pregnant women and their unborn babies.

In addition, large studies from the US and the UK looking at birth outcomes following whooping cough vaccination during pregnancy have found no evidence of increased risk for stillbirth, premature birth, death of the baby within 28 days of birth, foetal distress, caesarean delivery, or low birth weight.

Can I have the whooping cough vaccine at the same time as other vaccines?

Yes. You can get the whooping cough vaccine and influenza vaccine at the same time during your pregnancy. You can also get them at different visits.

However, you should wait to get the whooping cough vaccine until you are in the second or third trimester, ideally between 20 and 32 weeks of every pregnancy.

Speak with your immunisation provider.

Can I get whooping cough from the vaccine?

No. The whooping cough vaccine cannot give you or your baby whooping cough because they do not contain any live bacteria. The vaccines used contain purified, inactivated parts of the bacteria that cause the disease along with inactive toxoids from the bacteria that cause tetanus and diphtheria. These proteins stimulate the immune system to make antibodies against whooping cough, tetanus and diphtheria, but cannot cause the disease itself.

Can there be side effects from whooping cough vaccine in pregnancy?

Most people who have the whooping cough vaccine have no reaction at all. 

With any medicine, including whooping cough vaccine, there is a chance of side effects. These are usually minor, but serious reactions are also possible.

If you think you are having a severe allergic reaction or any other medical emergency that requires urgent attention, call 000 or go to the nearest hospital. Otherwise, call your doctor.

Most side effects do not affect daily activities and get better on their own in a few days. Common mild side effects from the vaccine include redness, swelling, pain, and tenderness where the injection is given, body-ache, fatigue, or fever. Headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, stomach ache, and arm swelling have also been reported. More serious reactions like severe swelling, pain, and redness in the arm where the injection was given are rare.

A life-threatening allergic reaction can happen after any vaccine but the estimated risk is less than 1 in a million vaccinations. Signs of a severe allergic reaction can include hives, swelling of the face and throat, difficulty in breathing, a fast heartbeat, dizziness, and weakness. These would start a few minutes to a few hours after vaccination.

If you think you are having a severe allergic reaction or any other medical emergency that requires urgent attention, call 000 or go to the nearest hospital. Otherwise, call your doctor.

Learn more about possible side effects of vaccination.

Are there people who should not get the whooping cough vaccine?

If you ever had a life-threatening allergic reaction after a dose of any pertussis, tetanus, or diphtheria (dTpa) containing vaccine, or if you have a severe allergy to any part of this vaccine, you should not get the vaccine. Tell your doctor if you have any severe allergies.

What is the WA Health Department doing to assure the safety of vaccines given to pregnant people?

WA Health monitors the safety of all vaccines.

Where can I get the whooping cough vaccine?

You can get vaccinated at your antenatal clinic and from some other immunisation providers.

Where to get help

  • See your doctor, obstetrician or midwife
  • Ring healthdirect (external site) on 1800 022 222
  • Phone the National Immunisation Information Line on 1800 671 811
  • For emergency or life-threatening conditions, visit an emergency department or dial triple zero (000) to call an ambulance

Last reviewed: 06-11-2023

Public Health

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

Link to HealthyWA Facebook page