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Pregnancy or planning a baby
During pregnancy, both you and your unborn baby can be more vulnerable to serious harm from some infectious diseases. Learn more about these diseases and how you can help protect you and your unborn baby before and during pregnancy.
The Australian National Immunisation Program (NIP) outlines a series of government funded immunisations given at specific times throughout your life. In addition, vaccines for other diseases that are not funded may be recommended in the Australian Immunisation Handbook (a resource developed by a government body to provide advice to healthcare professionals).1,2
Click on the diseases below and speak to a healthcare professional to learn more.
- Immunisation funded via the National Immunisation Program (NIP) for certain individuals
- Immunisations may be recommended in the Australian Immunisation Handbook but is not funded
All Adults: There may be a number of circumstances throughout adulthood that may put you be at an increased risk of certain diseases (e.g lifestyle/occupational risks, medical conditions) it is important to speak to a healthcare professional regarding your individual circumstances
- Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI). Australian Immunisation Handbook, Australian Government Department of Health, Canberra, 2018, immunisationhandbook.health.gov.au.
- Australian Governement Department of Health. National immunisation program schedule. available at: https://www.health.gov.au/health-topics/immunisation/immunisation-throughout-life/national-immunisation-program-schedule
The immune system is a complex network of organs, cells and processes that defend the body against germs to help keep us healthy.
If germs such as viruses or bacteria enter the body, there are specialised cells in our immune system that identify them and produce a response to fight the infection.
The immune system can also ‘remember’ the attack from germs so it can fight them more easily the next time they enter the body.
During pregnancy, changes are made to your immune system so that it can create a balance to help protect the baby from infections without compromising your health; some parts of the immune system are heightened while other parts are suppressed.
Since your body is supporting you and your baby it has to work harder, therefore these changes in the immune system may increase your susceptibility to certain infections.
For more information, please speak to a healthcare professional.
There are several things you can do to help keep yourself and your unborn baby healthy during pregnancy. In general, these include good nutrition, food safety, exercise and avoiding alcohol and smoking.
It is important that you speak with a healthcare professional about the ways you can help keep you and your baby healthy during pregnancy, and what may be right for you.
Infectious diseases are caused by germs such as viruses, bacteria or fungi. These germs can be harmless or under certain conditions, they may cause disease. The way infectious diseases are transmitted, their signs and symptoms, prevention and treatment options will vary depending on the type of germ.
Practicing good hygiene can help to protect against illness and reduce the spread of germs. Good hygiene involves:
- cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze with a tissue or into your upper sleeve or elbow. Throw the tissue in the rubbish after using it.
- wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
- if no water is available use an alcohol-based hand-rub
- avoid close contact with people who are sick
- if you are sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to reduce the risk of infecting them
- avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth as this is how germs can spread
- disinfect and clean objects and surfaces that may be contaminated.
The risk of some infectious diseases may also be reduced through immunisation.
For more information about infectious diseases please speak to a healthcare professional.
During pregnancy some diseases can be harmful to you, your baby, or both of you such as rubella, mumps and whooping cough. You may already have immunity to some infectious diseases, but it is important to speak with a healthcare professional for more information if you are planning a pregnancy or soon after you find out you are pregnant.
Vaccines work by teaching your immune system to fight future infections. Vaccines generally contain forms or specific parts of the germ that causes the disease, but because these elements of the germ are dead, inactivated or severely weakened, a vaccine cannot give you the disease.
When the vaccine enters your body – either via a needle or oral dose – your immune system gets to work and produces specialised cells called ‘antibodies’ that are able lock onto and destroy the germ. Your immune system is then able to remember the germ and produce those antibodies to help destroy it if you are exposed to the disease again.
You may experience some side effects after immunisation. Most are mild, short-lived and clear within a few days.
Common side effects can include:
- a sore arm
- pain and redness at the injection site
- babies may be unsettled or sleepy
Severe side effects like an allergic reaction are rare. If you think you or your child are experiencing a severe reaction, you should seek medical attention immediately.
If you have any concerns about the side effects of immunisations, please speak to a healthcare professional.
When you are immunised, your antibodies transfer from you to your unborn baby. These antibodies help protect your baby for a short time after birth, when they are too young to be immunised themselves. Therefore, immunisations after birth may help reduce your baby’s risks of certain infectious diseases.
Like all medicines, vaccines are not 100% effective. Therefore, there may still be a chance that an immunised person can get the disease – although usually with less severe symptoms than if they’d had no immunisation.
Vaccines are given for potentially serious and fatal diseases, some that were common in Australia before immunisation was available. The germs that cause these diseases are still around however due to high rates of immunisation in Australia, most of these diseases are now fortunately very rare. In some countries however, there may be diseases that are more common and these could be brought back into Australia by travellers.
The NIP is a schedule of vaccines, from infancy through to adulthood, that are provided free of charge by the Australian Government.
For more information please speak to a healthcare professional.
The risk of certain infectious diseases may vary from country to country and within different parts of the same country, even in Australia. The more prepared you are, the safer and more enjoyable your overseas trip will be.
It is important to plan ahead and see a healthcare professional at least 6 to 8 weeks before you travel to discuss prevention options and travel health. Take along your full itinerary so a healthcare professional can best assess your needs.
PM-AU-AVX-WCNT-190011 Date of GSK Approval: July 2021