Pertussis vaccine during pregnancy
Question: I am seven months pregnant. My doctor has told me that I should get vaccinated for pertussis before I deliver my baby. Is this safe? Why can’t I wait until after I deliver?
Answer: Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is one of the most preventable diseases in the United States if people get vaccinated. Unfortunately, there has been a recent increase in cases of pertussis and organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) are trying to increase awareness of the importance of the pertussis vaccine, as well as the tetanus and diphtheria vaccines, both for children and boosters for older teens and adults who are around children. These are often administered together under the name “Tdap” (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis). “Experts recommend adults receive a tetanus and diphtheria booster (tD) every 10 years and substitute a Tdap vaccine for one of the boosters,” notes the CDC.
Whooping cough, which is caused by bacteria, is easily transmitted between people and marked by a “whoop” as individuals struggle to get a breath after a coughing spell. It is particularly dangerous if infants develop it and can cause them to stop breathing.
The vaccine is considered safe for administration to pregnant women if administered in the third trimester or late second trimester (after 20 weeks gestation). And, if it has not been given prior to delivery, it should be administered immediately after delivery.
The reason your physician wants to give you the vaccine while you are pregnant is because it takes two weeks to take effect and if you wait until you deliver, you might contract pertussis and possibly infect your baby during this period.