I’m Pregnant. Should I Get the Tdap Vaccine?

Posted on August 2nd, 2013

Yes! The Tdap vaccine is a safe, simple and smart way for pregnant women in Maine to protect themselves and their babies from pertussis (whooping cough), a very serious disease.

Pertussis (otherwise known as whooping cough) is spread very easily and causes severe periods of coughing. It can take months to recover from pertussis, and the disease can lead to cracked ribs from coughing or pneumonia. You and most of the people you know were probably vaccinated against pertussis as children. But as we get older, our immunity to pertussis gets weaker, making it easier for us to get it again.

Pertussis outbreaks are on the rise in Maine. Now more than ever, children over age 11, adults, and seniors need to boost their immunity with the Tdap vaccine. If you are pregnant, it is very important for you and the people around you to get vaccinated against pertussis with the Tdap vaccine.

In fact, it’s twice as important:

1. Pregnant women are more likely to get sick from pertussis. Your body is under a lot of stress right now. Your heart, lungs and immune system are working much harder to support and protect you and your baby. You can’t fight off infections as well as you used to. And if you get sick, it may take you longer to get well.

Pertussis is particularly dangerous for pregnant women because pertussis is spread very easily, and because pertussis can make it much harder to breathe. With lower immunity and higher pressure on their lungs, pregnant women are more likely to get pertussis and more likely to develop serious problems as a result.

2. Infants and babies are more likely to get sick from pertussis—and be hospitalized as a result. During the first six months of life, your newborn baby will be too young to be vaccinated against pertussis. Your baby will be relying on you—and your family and friends—for protection. If you are vaccinated, you aren’t just protecting yourself. You are protecting your new baby from a potentially life-threatening illness that is becoming increasingly common in Maine.

Women are highly likely to pass their infections on to their newborn babies. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), between 30-40% of infants with pertussis caught the disease from their mothers.

Infants and babies who fall ill with pertussis are hospitalized at very high rates. In fact, the CDC reports that more than half of infants with pertussis must be hospitalized. 20% of these babies develop pneumonia, and yes, even today, some of these babies die. The best way to prevent pertussis from hurting your baby is to get immunized while you are pregnant.

Just one dose of Tdap vaccine during your pregnancy prevents you from infecting your baby during and after delivery. And if you breastfeed your new baby, you can pass your own pertussis antibodies on to your baby as well.

At Vax Maine Kids, we know you want to keep your baby safe. So what should you do?

  • Ask your doctor for a Tdap vaccine every time you are pregnant. The very best time for you to be vaccinated is between weeks 27 and 36 of any pregnancy you have since this allows you to pass your antibodies against pertussis on to your baby through your placenta.  But, the most important thing is that you get immunized either before, or right after, your baby is born. The Tdap vaccine has been given to pregnant women all over the world since the 1960s, and has never been shown to harm them, or their babies. The vaccine is safe for you and for your baby.  Breastfeeding will only help protect your baby more since you will continue to share your antibodies through breast milk.
  • Ask anyone visiting or caring for your new baby if they have had their flu shot or Tdap vaccine. Creating a special safe zone around your baby is called “cocooning”, and it is a very good way to protect your baby before he or she can be immunized against pertussis at 2 months old.  Even after their first vaccination, babies are still at risk, so “cocooning” helps keep them safe while they develop stronger immunity to pertussis, which happens around 12-18 months.

Ask grandparents, daycare providers and friends if their immunizations are up-to-date. The CDC recommends Tdap boosters for all adults over the age 19, especially if they will soon be around a new baby. If your new baby will have older brothers and sisters, double-check their immunizations as well. Children between the ages of 11 and 18 years need the Tdap vaccine, even if they were vaccinated as babies.

FEEL GOOD ABOUT … Protecting your new baby before and after birth from pertussis,  a very contagious and dangerous disease that is on the rise in Maine.

TALK ABOUT … Whether or not your friends, family, and your baby’s caregivers have had Tdap vaccines. Explain why this is important to you, and ask anyone helping you care for your baby to also help you keep your baby safe by getting vaccinated.


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