Get a Whooping Cough Vaccine During Each Pregnancy

Women can give their babies protection against whooping cough (pertussis) before their little ones are even born. Talk to your doctor or midwife about getting a whooping cough vaccine (called Tdap) during your third trimester of pregnancy.

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

Whooping cough is a serious disease that can be deadly for babies. Unfortunately, babies do not start building their own protection against whooping cough until they get vaccinated at two months old. This leaves babies unprotected in the first months of life when they are at highest risk of getting very sick if they get whooping cough.

CDC and maternal, infant health providers support Tdap vaccination during pregnancy

CDC recommends all women receive Tdap during the 27th through 36th week of each pregnancy, preferably during the earlier part of this time period. The following medical associations dedicated to the health of pregnant women or children support this recommendation:

Getting Tdap during pregnancy passes protection to baby

After a woman receives Tdap, her body creates protective antibodies and passes high levels of them to her baby before birth. These antibodies provide the baby with some short-term protection against whooping cough in early life.

Getting Tdap between 27 through 36 weeks of pregnancy lowers the risk of whooping cough in babies younger than 2 months old by 78%.

These antibodies can also protect the baby from some of the more serious complications, including hospitalization, that come along with getting whooping cough.

Early third trimester vaccination in every pregnancy offers best protection

Protective antibodies are at their highest about 2 weeks after getting vaccinated, but it takes time to pass them to the baby. So, the preferred time to get Tdap is early in the third trimester.

The amount of whooping cough antibodies in the body decreases over time. That is why CDC recommends women get Tdap during each pregnancy, even if their pregnancies are only a year or two apart. Doing so allows each of their babies to get the greatest number of protective antibodies and best protection possible.

Vaccination after delivery leaves baby without protective antibodies

If a woman did not get Tdap during pregnancy and has never received it before, she can get it after her baby is born. It will take about 2 weeks for her body to develop the highest protection (antibodies) in response to the vaccine. Once she has protection from the vaccine, she is less likely to give whooping cough to her newborn while caring for them. But remember, the baby will still be at risk for catching whooping cough from others.

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.

Safe for mom and baby

Tdap is very safe for pregnant women and their babies. Tdap cannot give pregnant women whooping cough. Getting vaccinated during pregnancy will not increase your risk for pregnancy complications. Learn more about safety and side effects.

Blood tests cannot tell if you need a Tdap vaccine

Experts do not know what level of whooping cough antibodies is needed to protect anyone, including babies, from getting sick. That is why CDC recommends all women get Tdap during each pregnancy — even women with some antibodies due to a previous infection or vaccination. The goal is to give each baby the greatest number of protective antibodies possible.

Breastfeeding may pass some protective antibodies onto baby

Women can pass some whooping cough antibodies to their baby by breastfeeding. By getting Tdap during pregnancy, women will have these antibodies in their breast milk as soon as their milk comes in. However, their baby will not get protective antibodies immediately if they wait until their baby is born to get vaccinated. This is because it takes about 2 weeks for the body to create antibodies. Learn more about the health benefits of breastfeeding.