Infections and Vaccinations in Pregnancy

Chicken Pox

(Varicella) If you have previously had chicken pox you are immune to further infection. A blood test can determine whether or not you have immunity. The infection is worse in pregnant women and can occasionally cause birth defects. If you come into contact with chicken pox or shingles during pregnancy and you are not immune, please contact us urgently to arrange for an injection, which will minimise your chances of catching the virus.

German Measles (Rubella)

This virus causes a mild illness of fever, cold-like symptoms and a pink rash. German measles infection in pregnancy can cause birth defects. Children in Australia are vaccinated against German measles, so it is not commonly seen here. A blood test can determine whether or not you have immunity.

Slapped Cheek Syndrome (Parvovirus)

This virus causes fever and red cheeks in children and can cause anaemia in unborn babies. Adults may not have any symptoms. If you believe you have come into contact with this condition during your pregnancy, a simple blood test can determine whether you have had the infection before and therefore have immunity and are not at risk. It is usually only considered a problem if you have been exposed to this virus at less than 20 weeks gestation.

Coughs & Colds

Coughs and colds are common during pregnancy and the following hints may be of use:

  • Keep up your intake of fluids.
  • Panadol or Panadeine may be taken for fever, headache, sore throats and aches and pains.
  • Do not take Aspirin, Disprin, Nurofen, Ibuprufen, Voltaren or cold and flu preparations containing pseudoephedrine.
  • Strepsils may help a sore throat.
  • Drixine nasal spray can be used for a short time (no more than 3 days) to relieve nasal congestion.
  • For a dry cough you can take Pholcodeine, Benadryl Dry or Rikodeine and ventolin can sometimes help.
  • For a moist cough you can take Benadryl for the Family ? Chesty.
  • If you have a temperature take regular Panadol and see your GP.


Influenza infection can cause serious complications in a pregnant woman, which may include the need for hospital treatment. Influenza immunisation is free and recommended at any time during pregnancy. There is no evidence that the vaccine will harm the unborn baby.

The annual flu vaccine is recommended for pregnant women. This includes the vaccine for H1N1 flu (swine flu), which is a variant of the normal seasonal flu.

Whooping cough/Pertussis

Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is a bacterial infection that inflames the lungs and airways. The pertussis bacteria also infect the windpipe, where they bring on a persistent, violent cough. It can also cause can cause pneumonia, seizures, encephalopathy and the death of the baby. One in every 200 babies who contract whooping cough will die. Immunisation is the best way to reduce the risk of whooping cough.

A whooping cough combination vaccine including tetanus and diphtheria protection is recommended to be given in the third trimester of every pregnancy, ideally between 28 and 36 weeks gestation, but it can be given up until delivery. Vaccination during pregnancy has been shown to benefit the newborn by passing protection from the mother to the baby.

In Victoria, the vaccine is free for:

  • pregnant women from 28 weeks gestation during every pregnancy
  • partners of women who are at least 28 weeks pregnant if the partner has not received a pertussis booster in the last ten years
  • parents or guardians of babies born on or after 1 June 2015, if their baby is under six months of age and they have not received a pertussis booster in the last ten years.
Vaginal thrush (Candida Infection)

Almost all women have increased vaginal discharge during pregnancy. If the discharge smells unpleasant, causes soreness or itching, or is discoloured, you may have a vaginal infection. The most common infection is thrush and is contributed to by the increased hormone levels in pregnancy.

Canestan cream or pessaries can be used as normal in pregnancy. Many people prefer to use pessaries in pregnancy, as they are inserted easily with a finger.

Probiotics and ingestion of yogurt can also help assist with improving the natural vaginal flora to assist with further development of thrush.