A good friend of mine came down with whooping cough over the summer. She was floored for weeks– vacation plans dashed, work and children neglected. Her chest ached; the cough was violent and relentless. She told me to get a booster. It turns out that even if I had been vaccinated for this disease as a child, I’m no longer protected.
The same week I heard about all of this, a NY Times article announced the return of whooping cough (pertussis) in the US. Over 32,000 cases and 16 deaths have been reported this year, mostly in infants (the disease is very dangerous to infants). This is the largest number of documented cases since 1959.
I got my shot, which came with a bonus booster for tetanus and diptheria. Now the CDC is recommending the Tdap vaccine for all pregnant women.
The advisory committee for the CDC recommends getting the vaccine for each pregnancy in the late second or third trimester (27-36 weeks), regardless of whether you’ve had the Tdap in the past. (Previous recommendations have stated that women should only get the Tdap vaccine if they’ve never had it before.) If that doesn’t happen, mom should get vaccinated as soon as possible after giving birth, preferably before leaving the hospital.
“This is a great opportunity for obstetricians to help their patients protect their newborns and themselves,” said Dr. Richard Beigi, member of American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. “I urge all obstetricians to recommend and give Tdap vaccine to their pregnant patients.”
Pertussis is a highly contagious upper respiratory disease caused by bacteria and characterized by a violent “whooping” cough. At first it seems like a common cold but then the coughing becomes extremely intense. It’s particularly dangerous, even fatal, for infants. If mom gets the vaccine during pregnancy she’ll be less likely to get whopping cough (and pass it to her baby) but she’ll also transfer pertussis antibodies to her newborn. These antibodies protect the baby until he is old enough to be vaccinated at around 2 months of age. No serious side-effects have been linked to the vaccine.
Ceridwen Morris, CCE, is a writer, childbirth educator and the co-author of From The Hips: A Comprehensive, Open-Minded, Uncensored, Totally Honest Guide to Pregnancy, Birth and Becoming a Parent. Follow her on Facebook.
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