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Get the Whooping Cough Vaccine While You Are Pregnant

Man and woman's hands on pregnant woman's stomach making shape of heart

It is important for women to get the whooping cough vaccine in the third trimester of each pregnancy. Vaccines are the best way to prevent this disease. There are 2 different whooping cough vaccines. Both vaccines combine protection against whooping cough, tetanus and diphtheria, but they are for different age groups:

  • Tdap: for everyone 11 years or older, including pregnant women
  • DTaP: for children 2 months through 6 years of age

You need the whooping cough vaccine during each of your pregnancies

The recommended time to get the shot is during your 27th through 36th week of pregnancy, preferably during the earlier part of this time period.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that pregnant women receive the whooping cough vaccine for adolescents and adults (called Tdap vaccine) during the third trimester of each pregnancy. The recommended time to get the shot is during your 27th through 36th week of pregnancy, preferably during the earlier part of this time period. This replaces the original recommendation that pregnant women get the vaccine only if they had not previously received it.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American College of Nurse-Midwives support this recommendation.

 

You should get the whooping cough vaccine while pregnant to pass protection to your baby

Learn why Laura decided to get the whooping cough vaccine in her 3rd trimester of pregnancy and how her baby girl was born with some protection against the disease.
Also available on YouTube.

After receiving the whooping cough vaccine, your body will create protective antibodies (proteins produced by the body to fight off diseases) and pass some of them to your baby before birth. These antibodies provide your baby some short-term protection against whooping cough in early life. These antibodies can also protect your baby from some of the more serious complications that come along with whooping cough.

Your protective antibodies are at their highest about 2 weeks after getting the vaccine, but it takes time to pass them to your baby. So the preferred time to get the whooping cough vaccine is early in your third trimester.

The amount of whooping cough antibodies in your body decreases over time. That is why CDC recommends you get a whooping cough vaccine during each pregnancy. Doing so allows each of your babies to get the greatest number of protective antibodies from you. This means each of your babies will get the best protection possible against this disease.

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Getting the whooping cough vaccine while pregnant is better than getting the vaccine after you give birth

Whooping cough vaccination during pregnancy is ideal so your baby will have short-term protection as soon as he is born. This early protection is important because your baby will not start getting his whooping cough vaccines until he is 2 months old. These first few months of life are when your baby is at greatest risk for catching whooping cough. This is also when he’s at greatest risk for having severe, potentially life-threating complications from the infection. To avoid that gap in protection, it is best to get a whooping cough vaccine during pregnancy. You will then pass protection to your baby before he is born. To continue protecting your baby, he should get whooping cough vaccines starting at 2 months old.

You may never have gotten the Tdap vaccine before and did not get it during this pregnancy. If so, you should make sure to get the vaccine immediately after you give birth, before leaving the hospital or birthing center. It will take about 2 weeks before your body develops protection (antibodies) in response to the vaccine. Once you have protection from the vaccine, you are less likely to give whooping cough to your newborn while caring for him. But remember, your baby will still be at risk for catching whooping cough from others.

A recent study looked to see how effective Tdap was at preventing whooping cough in babies whose mothers got the vaccine while pregnant or in the hospital after giving birth. The study found that getting Tdap between 27 through 36 weeks of pregnancy is 85% more effective at preventing whooping cough in babies younger than 2 months old.

 

Blood tests cannot tell if you need a whooping cough vaccine

There are no blood tests that can tell you if you have enough antibodies in your body to protect yourself or your baby against whooping cough. Even if you have been sick with whooping cough in the past or previously received the vaccine, you still should get the vaccine during each pregnancy.

 

Breastfeeding may pass some protective antibodies onto your baby

By breastfeeding, you may pass some antibodies you have made in response to the vaccine to your baby. When you get a whooping cough vaccine during your pregnancy, you will have antibodies in your breast milk that you can share with your baby as soon as your milk comes in. However, your baby will not get protective antibodies immediately if you wait to get the whooping cough vaccine until after delivering your baby. This is because it takes about 2 weeks for your body to create antibodies. Learn more about the health benefits of breastfeeding.

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