From baby-proofing the house to maintaining a nutrient-rich diet, there's a lot to think about when getting ready for the arrival of a new baby. And while most parents know to get babies on a doctor-recommended immunization schedule right away, it's less obvious that protecting against contagious illnesses is another item to add to the pre-birth to-do list. In fact, all moms-to-be should get vaccinated for whooping cough when pregnant to in order to ensure that babies are properly protected. It's a simple step to prevent the onset of a sickness becoming increasingly common in the United States.
Luckily, preventing such a dire outcome is relatively easy. The Centers for Disease Control recommends that all pregnant women get a Tdap vaccine — which protects against tetanus and diphtheria in addition to whooping cough — during the third trimester of each pregnancy. And the closer to the beginning of that period (around week 27) the better, because that gives your body enough times to build up protective antibodies and pass them on to the baby before he or she enters the world. Also, anyone who will be around the baby, like older siblings, should have up-to-date vaccinations to avoid getting the little one sick.
That point is especially crucial, according to the Mayo Clinic, because teens and adults tend to recover from the illness without a hitch. That means they may not realize they're carrying a highly contagious bacterial infection that could pose a very serious risk for toddlers or even be deadly for very young babies. Newborns shouldn't receive their first whooping cough vaccination until they're two months old, as the CDC's vaccination schedule dictates, and won't be fully immunized until the third one at six months. So, early exposure to the bacteria that carries whooping cough (generally transmitted though droplets from the sneezing or coughing of an infected person) is much more threatening for them.
But the good news is that a mother's simply getting the vaccine during her third trimester truly will go a long way in preventing her baby from eventually contracting whooping cough and its complications, which in infants can include pneumonia, brain damage, and even an inability to breathe.
Whooping cough is scary, but it's on the rise only because of vaccines wearing off. Families can help to reverse that trend and keep their youngest members safe by ensuring that everyone in the household is fully immunized — and that the baby starts receiving protection while still in the womb.