Many expectant mums and dads are taking a firm stance to protect their unborn babies. They are introducing self-imposed "No Vax, No Visit" policies when it comes to family and friends meeting their precious new bubs.

Whooping cough, or pertussis as it is medically known, is a highly contagious disease which can be prevented through immunisation.

The vaccine-preventable disease is most dangerous for babies under six months of age, with around four to five of every 100 babies under three months old who contract whooping cough dying from complications arising from the disease.

A major concern is the fact that pertussis has an incubation period of 7 to 20 days, meaning that when it gets into the community, people may be highly contagious before they present with a single symptom.

The "No Vax, No Visit" policy means family and friends cannot visit bub if they are not immunised against whooping cough. (Image: Getty Images)

Expectant mums are able to receive a free whooping cough booster during their third trimester of pregnancy. The antibodies from the vaccine pass through to the womb to provide some immunity to the baby through the placenta.

As newborns cannot receive their first whooping cough vaccination until they are six-weeks-old, it's important for parents and visiting family and friends to immunise themselves to protect baby during the vulnerable period. They are encouraged to receive a whooping cough vaccination booster at least two weeks before coming into contact with the baby. Doing this greatly reduces the chances of passing on the deadly pertussis bacteria to the baby.

Whooping cough signs and symptoms

A case of whooping cough will generally begin quite similar to a cold, with a runny or blocked nose, a mild fever and tiredness and aches.

A cough can develop quite early in the illness and usually gets worse over time, leading to uncontrollable coughing fits which can also cause the person to vomit or choke. The cough can last up to three months, and also can cause sleep disturbance due to the violent coughing. The cough can be severe enough to fracture ribs in both children and adults. Other side effects of the cough can include incontinence and burst blood vessels.

However, often the typical whoop sound (caused when taking a deep gasp for breath after a coughing fit) isn't present in people who have had vaccinations.

In babies, the cough may not be present or may not seem severe, but they can be seen to stop breathing and to turn blue, as well as being lethargic and not interested in feeding.

Founding Director of the Immunisation Foundation of Australia, Catherine Hughes strongly advises ant-vaxxers to reconsider their position. "I know some people don't vaccinate because they want their children to live a "natural" and "organic" life, but honestly there is nothing "natural" about contracting whooping cough," says Catherine.

"The toxins from the whooping cough bacteria can cause severe coughing fits, vomiting, pneumonia, heart damage, kidney damage, brain damage, requiring to all sorts of "un-natural" interventions. It's a disease that no child deserves."

For more information on whooping cough prevention and immunisations visit Immunise Australia.