The Importance of Tdap During Pregnancy

Ashley shared her Tdap selfie with us! She said, “Here’s to a healthy baby boy!”


One of the most important vaccines we can receive to protect our unborn babies is the Tetanus, Diptheria and acellular Pertussis (Tdap) vaccine.  Here’s a great video from the CDC which features pregnant mom Laura and why she chose to get the Tdap during pregnancy.

Whopping cough, or pertussis, is a life-threatening disease which can cause severe respiratory complications for newborns who are too young to receive their first TDaP booster at 2 months old. The babies cough so hard and for so long that they are unable to breath properly; they gasp for breaths in between severe coughing fits which causes a “whopping” sound. Most babies who contract pertussis end up in the hospital and the cough can last up to ten weeks which is why it is often referred to as the 100 day cough. The CDC estimates that worldwide more than 195,000 deaths can be attributed to pertussis each year.

Here is a video from the Mayo Clinic of a baby with whopping cough. This may be upsetting to some.

Getting the Tdap vaccine during your third trimester (27-36 weeks) of each pregnancy is important because it ensures that you will pass the antibodies you have developed against pertussis to your unborn baby so that he/she is protected until they are old enough for their first of three DTaP boosters at 2 months, 4 months and 6 months. Your baby will also receive boosters later on at 15-18 months and also at 4-6 years old.


Tdap vs DTaP


Some people wonder why they get a Tdap vaccine and their babies get a DTaP vaccine. The vaccine for babies contains 3-5x the amount of the toxoid (the bacteria) so that the baby makes a strong immune response. To distinguish the stronger dose from the lesser dose, uppercase letters are used. Since adults have already received their initial DTaP vaccines when they were children, they only need their Tdap boosters in pregnancy.


Light for Riley:

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Light for Riley is a foundation which started in 2015 after Australian infant Riley Hughes lost his life to whooping cough after just 32 days of life. His mother, Catherine Hughes, has raised awareness in Australia and the world about the importance of getting the Tdap vaccine during the third trimester of pregnancy. Before Riley’s death, the Tdap booster in the third trimester was not offered for free in Australia. Thanks to Catherine Hughes’ advocacy, each state in Australia now provides the Tdap booster in the third month of pregnancy for free.



Pertussis Outbreaks:

Some people choose not to vaccinate their children which has led to some public health outbreaks of pertussis. The best way to protect yourself and your family is to get the Tdap vaccine during the third trimester of pregnancy and to ensure that all adults who will come into contact with your newborn get their Tdap booster.

In 2012, the most recent peak year, 48,277 cases of pertussis were reported in the United States, but many more go undiagnosed and unreported. This is the largest number of cases reported in the United States since 1955 when 62,786 cases were reported.

Source: CDC 


Further Reading:

The Baby Center: Protecting Yourself and Your Baby from Whopping Cough

Whooping cough can be life-threatening for babies who are less than a year old. And they’re most likely to catch the disease from household members and other close contacts who might not even know they’re infected. So vaccinating adults and adolescents against whooping cough also helps protect babies from the disease.


Blog: The One Reason Why I’m So Glad We Vaccinated

I thank God I fell down on the side of science. I thank God we didn’t miss our two-month appointment, or decide Blaise could wait on a TDaP. I never saw my son turn blue from coughing; I never saw my son unable to catch his breath. He’d have been hospitalized, at the very least, and subject to all the IVs and aspirators and nebulizers they had to shove at him. My precious, perfect son could have cracked a rib, could have started asthma attacks and damaged his pretty pink lungs already, at 4 months old. He could have been sick beyond belief.

But he didn’t. He wasn’t. All because of one small shot that saved him so much pain.


California Study: Whooping Cough Less Severe if Mom Gets Tdap Shot During Pregnancy

Of the sick infants whose mothers did not get the vaccination, known as Tdap (which protects against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis), three out of four (77 percent) were hospitalized, according to the study. Less than half (44 percent) of those whose mothers did get the Tdap ended up in the hospital.


Australia: Whooping Cough: Why are We Having Outbreaks?


Oregon: The Timing of Pertussis Cases in Unvaccinated Children in an Outbreak Year: Oregon 2012

In this outbreak, pertussis cases among unvaccinated children represented an earlier spread of disease across local areas. Controlling outbreaks may require attention to the composition and location of the unvaccinated.


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