As you approach your 27th week of pregnancy, your doctor or midwife will offer you the option of a Tdap vaccine. This shot, administered during every pregnancy, safeguards your baby against tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis. While you have the option to decline this vaccine, this is one shot you won’t want to skip.
What is Pertussis?
Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is a very contagious respiratory disease that leads to violent, uncontrollable coughing and breathing issues. Most common in young infants and adolescents, pertussis can cause serious and often life-threatening complications, landing about half of affected babies in the hospital. The coughing fits resulting from this illness are so intense that babies may struggle to breathe, turn blue or purple around the mouth, vomit or stop breathing completely.
Those at highest risk for catching whooping cough and suffering life-threatening complications from it are infants under 6 months old. While there’s no one-time vaccination for your little one, the very best you can do to protect him or her is to submit yourself to the Tdap shot during pregnancy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists agree – when a pregnant mother receives the Tdap vaccine, she helps to protect her child in his or her first months of life. In fact, these two organizations note that maternal vaccination is the most effective at protecting babies from whooping cough.
Making a comeback
Yet, despite these findings, the anti-vaccine movement has inspired families to decline the Tdap vaccine – resulting in the resurgence of a potentially deadly disease that was all but eradicated in the U.S. Since 2010, the CDC reports between 10,000 and 50,000 cases of pertussis each year cropping up in every state across the nation. In 2012, the U.S. saw the most cases it had seen since the 1940s – well before the vaccine was available.
It’s a mind-boggling situation made frustrating by the fact that pertussis is highly contagious but difficult to diagnose. Because the first stage so closely resembles the common cold – low fever, runny nose and mild cough – many people don’t know they even have the disease and unwittingly pass it on to others. Once the characteristic cough sets in, about two weeks later, the illness becomes more difficult to treat.
Our advice? Save yourself the heartache of watching your new baby suffer and sign up for the Tdap vaccine before he or she arrives. While maternal vaccination is the best way to ensure your baby stays safe, encouraging close family members to get vaccinated is a smart move as well.
So, what do you think? Will you be receiving the vaccine against whooping cough? Why or why not? Share your thoughts in the comments below.