Get the Whooping Cough Vaccine While You’re Pregnant
August is National Immunization Awareness Month, so it’s a good time to remind you that, if you’re pregnant, it’s very important that you get the whooping cough (Tdap) vaccine in your third trimester (ideally between your 27th and 36th week).
What’s more, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that you receive the Tdap vaccine in the third trimester of each and every pregnancy.
What is Whooping Cough?
Whooping cough (also known as pertussis) is an extremely contagious respiratory infection. It’s usually marked by severe coughing spells that end with a high-pitched intake of breath that sounds like “whoop.” Infants under 6 months of age are at high risk of potentially life-threatening complications from whooping cough. They include pneumonia, slowed or stopped breathing, seizures and brain damage.
How the Whooping Cough Vaccine Helps Newborns
Babies don’t receive their first whooping cough vaccine until they’re 2 months old. But if you get the vaccine while you’re pregnant, your body will create protective antibodies (proteins the body produces to fight off disease) and pass some of them to your baby before birth. These antibodies give your baby short-term protection against whooping cough, and can also protect your baby from some of the more serious complications that occur with the disease.
The antibodies are at their highest about 2 weeks after you receive the vaccine, which is why you should get it late in your pregnancy. Then, to continue protecting your baby, he or she should get whooping cough vaccines staring at 2 months of age.
Why Do I Need the Whooping Cough Vaccine with Every Pregnancy?
The amount of whooping cough antibodies in your body decreases over time. So if you get the vaccine during one pregnancy, your antibody levels won’t stay high enough to provide protection for future pregnancies.
Encourage Others to Get Vaccinated, Too
Anyone who’s around babies needs a whooping cough vaccine. Research shows that about 80% of babies who get whooping cough catch it from someone in their own household. So you can provide indirect protection to your baby by asking everyone who’s around him or her to get the Tdap vaccine at least 2 weeks before they meet your newborn.
Questions About the Whooping Cough Vaccine – or Vaccinations in General?
Simply contact us here at Women’s Health. We’re glad to answer any questions you may have about vaccines and their role in keeping you and your baby healthy.