Timing Matters for Whooping Cough Vaccine During Pregnancy

Immunization against whooping cough has been an important part of prenatal care for pregnant women for years. Now, a recent study says the ideal time for a pregnant mom to get the vaccine is at the beginning of her third trimester.

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CLEVELAND – The Tdap vaccine, which protects against serious diseases – tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (also known as whooping cough) – has been an important vaccine for pregnant women for years.

Now, a recent study shows the ideal time for a pregnant mom to get the vaccine is at the beginning of her third trimester.

The study looked at data on 626 pregnant women.

Researchers found that women who were vaccinated with Tdap early in their third trimester had the greatest concentration of antibodies available to protect their babies.

When a woman gets a vaccine, she creates antibodies that travel through the umbilical cord to the baby.

According to Salena Zanotti, M.D., a women’s health physician at Cleveland Clinic who did not take part in the study, when it comes to the Tdap vaccine, protection against whooping cough is of utmost importance.

“What we found, several years ago, was that many newborns were getting pertussis, or whooping cough, and because their immune systems are so weak and their lungs are still weak, they were getting very ill and had a significantly higher risk of pneumonia, or even death.” she said. 

Dr. Zanotti said getting both the Tdap vaccine and the flu vaccine at the same time is safe.

And, with each new pregnancy, women should be re-vaccinated with Tdap.

Likewise, any other caregivers who will be spending significant time around the new baby should also get the Tdap vaccine every ten years.

Dr. Zanotti said the most important thing that pregnant moms need to know is that the Tdap vaccine is safe and highly recommended for anyone who will be spending a lot of time with the baby.

“Women need to know that the vaccine is safe and to talk about it, especially with their family members and friends who are going to be around the baby, to make sure they get it, because all we’re doing is protecting the baby,” she said. 

Dr. Zanotti said whooping cough can be fatal for infants and that since women have been getting vaccinated during pregnancy since 2012, doctors have been seeing less deaths from the respiratory disease. 

Complete results of the study can be found in JAMA.

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