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Pregnant Mom Who Refused Whooping Cough Vaccine: “If I Could Turn Back Time, I Would”

Despite having a healthy pregnancy, exercising regularly, and eating right, an Australian mother named Cormit came down with whooping cough (also known as pertussis) during the last few weeks of her pregnancy. And unfortunately, that whooping cough got passed down to the one person in the world Cormit wanted to protect — her newborn daughter, Eva.

In a video shared by Gold Coast Health on Facebook, Cormit shared her story about the devastating consequences of her decision to decline the whooping cough vaccine she was offered at 28 weeks pregnant. “Being the healthy, fit, organic woman I am, I told them to leave me alone,” she admits.

Without realizing she had whooping cough (the disorder usually starts mild, like a common cold, then progresses to severe illness and coughing over the course of a week or two), Cormit gave birth. Soon she noticed that her nagging cough wasn’t going away. “It was just kind of annoying,” she said of the cough, which seemed like nothing to her at first. She had checked it out and was surprised to discover that she had whooping cough.

Shortly after being diagnosed, Cormit’s newborn started displaying symptoms. Again, she really didn’t think the illness would be that severe. For the first few days, Cormit wasn’t too concerned. “She was just a bit nasally and coughy for the first few days,” she explained. “I thought, ‘I don’t know what everyone is getting on about … we’ll get through it.'”

Then the cough turned into something “from a horror movie,” the mother says. She describes her baby turning blue and floppy in her hands, episodes of up to three minutes without breathing, and eventually, she was going back and forth from the hospital until Eva was admitted to the intensive care unit. At the time Cormit recorded the video, her daughter had been in the hospital for over three weeks.

“It’s been a nightmare,” Cormit says, as she cradles her tiny daughter on her shoulder. “It’s just so hard to watch.”

The reality is that whooping cough is serious — especially when it comes to newborns. By being vaccinated, you are not only lowering your chances of catching the disease, but more importantly, you are reducing the risk of transmitting it to individuals who are most vulnerable.

If the vaccine is safe for you and your baby and it could save your newborn’s life, well that’s a no-brainer to me.
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According to the CDC, it’s best to get the Tdap vaccine against whooping cough during the 27th and 36th week of your pregnancy. This is suggested in an effort to prevent cases like Cormit’s, when a mom might unknowingly contract whooping cough and pass it onto her helpless newborn. The antibodies that your body makes through the vaccine will be passed on to your baby to provide some degree of protection against the whooping cough and lessen the complications if he or she does get it.

If your OB/GYN or pregnancy care provider doesn’t offer you the vaccine during your pregnancy, you can get the vaccine before you are discharged from the hospital. However, you should know that it will take a full two weeks for your body to make enough antibodies to protect your baby.

I’ve had the Tdap vaccine myself when I was pregnant. Even though I am a registered nurse, I will admit that I did wonder at the time if it was really necessary. Hearing this story though, I’m so glad that I went through with it. It’s just not worth the risk. If it helps ease your mind a bit too, in all of the years of the Tdap vaccine being given to pregnant women, there hasn’t been a single adverse incident recorded — which pretty much is all the convincing I will need. If the vaccine is safe for you and your baby and it could save your newborn’s life, well that’s a no-brainer to me.

Also, for those of you who have already received the Tdap vaccine during your previous pregnancies, the CDC recently changed the guidelines and now recommends that moms get it during each of their pregnancies. (The old recommendation said you only needed it once.)

And don’t forget to protect your little one by encouraging everyone who comes in close contact with your baby (like your partner, grandparents, and child-care providers) to get vaccinated against whooping cough, too.

“It’s a lot of suffering for a tiny, cute, little thing that you love so much,” Cormit concludes. “If I could turn back time I would protect myself.”

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