Pregnancy and whooping cough
Paul Mikel, MD, is an obstetrician and gynecologist, at Banner Health Center in Maricopa, AZ Banner Medical Group OB/GYNs are available throughout the Valley. Visit www.bannerhealth.com/bmg. *Banner Medical Group physicians will have the pertussis vaccine available after Dec. 9.
Question: I’m thrilled to be pregnant with my first child, but I am concerned about all the news about whooping cough outbreaks and the danger to newborns. How can I protect my baby?
Answer: Whooping cough (also known as pertussis) can be serious, and even fatal, in newborns. This highly contagious disease is on the rise with recent outbreaks in Washington and California, and a rising number of cases in Arizona. It produces uncontrollable coughing and a horrible “whooping” sound when children try to breathe.
According to the Center for Disease Control, there were more than 48,000 confirmed cases of Pertussis in 2012 with nearly 3000 cases in infants younger than three months. When the source of the infection could be identified, mothers were responsible for 30-40 percent of those infant cases.
You are right to be concerned, but also know there are steps you can take to protect your family. Public health officials call the best line of defense “cocooning.” The theory is that, because the newborns that are at greatest risk cannot be safely immunized until 2 months of age, those with closest contact should be immunized as a layer of protection. Most often infections in newborns can be traced back to well-meaning parents or caregivers who were not immunized.
There is a vaccine called TDAP (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis) that is safe and effective. It should be given to all adult family members that will care for the baby including grandparents and dad. Young siblings should have been immunized as part of the normal childhood series, but if you are concerned, talk to your pediatrician. Older siblings, ages 11-19, may need a booster.
In the past it was suggested that women should be immunized immediately after delivery. The Centers for Disease Control currently recommends that all pregnant women, even those who have been previously vaccinated, receive the TDAP during each and every pregnancy in the 3rd trimester to pass some immunity on to the baby. This provides immunization for mom, and even some early protection through the placenta for her developing baby.
Talk to your family and plan ahead. You, and your new baby, will breathe easier because you did.