The Centers for Disease Control now recommends that pregnant women get vaccinated against pertussis (more commonly known as whooping cough). Why the change? Whooping cough outbreaks have been rising over the past several years and vaccinating expectant moms during the later weeks of their pregnancy helps protect babies from this potentially deadly disease.
Whooping cough is highly contagious and causes inflammation in the upper-respiratory tract. Infants are particularly vulnerable to this bacteria and have no natural immunity to fight it.
Pregnant women who want to protect their unborn baby should receive the tDaP (tetanus, diptheria and pertussis) booster vaccine. Following vaccination, a mother’s body will develop antibodies that provide the baby with short-term protection from whooping cough and its complications.
Vaccine benefits are two-fold when given during pregnancy: the vaccine crosses the placenta and offers some level of immunity directly to the baby before birth and the new mom will protect herself from contracting whooping cough and passing it on to her baby after he/she is born. Babies can receive the first in their own series of whooping cough vaccines at two months old, but until that time they are somewhat vulnerable if they didn’t receive immunity in-utero. The current whooping cough vaccine does not have great lasting effect over time, so women should be re-vaccinated with each pregnancy to boost antibodies passed to each baby.
When a new addition comes along, it’s important to ensure that everyone in close contact with that baby is vaccinated–that includes parents, siblings, grandparents and other caregivers. Important antibodies are passed to babies through breastmilk, but breastmilk alone cannot protect them from everything. And, keep in mind that most infant immunizations can’t be administered until babies are at least a few months old. That leaves babies vulnerable to a variety of illnesses and they must rely on those around them for “herd” immunity.
As a parent, most of us want to do everything we can to protect our children. Vaccinations are incredibly important tools to keep all of us healthy. Click here to learn more about how to protect your baby from whooping cough, or talk to your doctor.