Whooping cough (pertussis) booster vaccine

(Date: October 2016. Version: 2)

This factsheet has been written for members of the public by the UK Teratology Information Service (UKTIS). UKTIS is a not-for-profit organisation funded by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) on behalf of UK Health Departments. UKTIS has been providing scientific information to health care providers since 1983 on the effects that medicines, recreational drugs and chemicals may have on the developing baby during pregnancy.

Quick read

All pregnant women in the UK are advised to have a pertussis booster to help protect their baby from whooping cough after birth.

What is it?

The whooping cough (pertussis) vaccine protects against whooping cough infection.

The whooping cough vaccine recommended for pregnant women in the UK is called Boostrix IPV®.

What are the benefits of having the whooping cough vaccination during pregnancy?

When a pregnant woman is vaccinated against whooping cough, her immunity against the disease passes to the unborn baby. This means that after the baby is born, they have a lower chance of catching whooping cough and could therefore avoid the serious complications that it can cause.

It is currently recommended that all pregnant women in the UK are vaccinated with Boostrix IPV® between 16 and 32 weeks of pregnancy. Women can still be vaccinated after 32 weeks of pregnancy but vaccination at this stage of pregnancy may not offer as much protection to the baby.

Are there any risks of having the whooping cough vaccination in pregnancy?

No. The baby is fully developed by 12 weeks of pregnancy so by the time that the vaccine is given it will not lead to a structural birth defect. Information from over 200,000 pregnant women who received the whooping cough vaccine raises no concerns that vaccination causes stillbirth, preterm birth, or low infant birth weight.

Are there any alternatives to having the whooping cough vaccination in pregnancy?

No. It is recommended that all pregnant women are vaccinated, including those who have had a whooping cough infection or the vaccination in a previous pregnancy. This is to ensure that high levels of immunity can pass to the baby.

What if I prefer not to be vaccinated against whooping cough in pregnancy?

You can decline the vaccination. However, protection against whooping cough is very important for the baby as it can cause serious breathing problems that require hospital treatment and, in rare cases, can lead to death.

Will my baby need extra monitoring?

No. The whooping cough vaccine is routinely given in pregnancy and does not mean that any extra monitoring is required.

Who can I talk to if I have questions?

If you have any questions about the information in this leaflet, please discuss them with your health care provider. They can access more detailed medical and scientific information from www.uktis.org

How can I help to improve drug safety information for pregnant women in the future?

Our online reporting system allows women with a current or previous pregnancy to create a digitally secure ‘my bumps record’. You will be asked to enter information about your health, whether or not you take any medicines, and your pregnancy outcome. You can update your details at any time during pregnancy or afterwards. This information will help us better understand how medicines affect the health of pregnant women and their babies. Please visit https://www.medicinesinpregnancy.org/Login/ to register.

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General information 

Up to 1 out of every 5 pregnancies ends in a miscarriage, and 1 in 40 babies are born with a birth defect. These are referred to as the background population risks.  They describe the chance of these events happening for any pregnancy before taking factors such as the mother’s health during pregnancy, her lifestyle, medicines she takes and the genetic make up of her and the baby’s father into account.

Medicines use in pregnancy

Most medicines used by the mother will cross the placenta and reach the baby. Sometimes this may have beneficial effects for the baby.  There are, however, some medicines that can harm a baby’s normal development.  How a medicine affects a baby may depend on the stage of pregnancy when the medicine is taken. If you are on regular medication you should discuss these effects with your doctor/health care team before becoming pregnant.

If a new medicine is suggested for you during pregnancy, please ensure the doctor or health care professional treating you is aware of your pregnancy.

When deciding whether or not to use a medicine in pregnancy you need to weigh up how the medicine might improve your and/or your unborn baby’s health against any possible problems that the drug may cause. Our bumps leaflets are written to provide you with a summary of what is known about use of a specific medicine in pregnancy so that you can decide together with your health care provider what is best for you and your baby.   

Every pregnancy is unique. The decision to start, stop, continue or change a prescribed medicine before or during pregnancy should be made in consultation with your health care provider. It is very helpful if you can record all your medication taken in pregnancy in your hand held maternity records.



Disclaimer: This information is not intended to replace the individual care and advice of your health care provider. New information is continually becoming available. Whilst every effort will be made to ensure that this information is accurate and up to date at the time of publication, we cannot cover every eventuality and the information providers cannot be held responsible for any adverse outcomes following decisions made on the basis of this information. We strongly advise that printouts should NOT be kept for any length of time, or for “future reference” as they can rapidly become out of date.

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