With cases of whooping cough increasing across Wolverhampton and the Black Country, pregnant women are being encouraged to make sure they have received their free vaccination.

Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is a bacterial infection of the lungs and breathing tubes. It spreads very easily and can sometimes cause serious problems, especially in babies and young children.

Early symptoms of whooping cough are similar to a cold, with a runny nose and mild fever. These symptoms can last for up to 2 weeks before developing into long bursts of severe coughing and choking. Coughing fits can cause some people to make a distinctive ‘whooping’ sound as they gasp for breath between coughs.  

Babies under 6 months are at increased risk of complications from whooping cough which can include breathing difficulties, dehydration, pneumonia, or seizures.

Mums to be are offered the vaccine between 16 and 32 weeks of pregnancy so their baby has protection against whooping cough from birth. The whooping cough vaccine is also routinely given as part of the 6 in 1 combination vaccine for babies at 8, 12 and 16 weeks, which also protects against diphtheria, hepatitis B, hib, polio and tetanus.

Bal Kaur, Consultant in Public Health with the City of Wolverhampton Council, said: "If you are pregnant and have not been vaccinated, or if your child hasn’t yet had the 6 in 1 combination vaccine, please contact your GP surgery to book an appointment to get the protection from whooping cough as soon as possible. If you’re unsure if your child has had the vaccine, check your child’s red book."

Sally Roberts, Chief Nursing Officer for the NHS Black Country Integrated Care Board, added: “Anyone can catch whooping cough, but the infection can be very serious in young children and babies.

“Getting vaccinated while you’re pregnant is highly effective in protecting your baby from developing whooping cough in the first few weeks of their life – ideally from 16 weeks up to 32 weeks of pregnancy. If for any reason you miss having the vaccine, you can still have it up until you go into labour.

“The immunity you get from the vaccine will pass to your baby through the placenta and provide protection for them until they are old enough to be routinely vaccinated against whooping cough at 8 weeks old.

For more information on the whooping cough vaccine in pregnancy, please visit Keeping well in pregnancy