Is It Safe To Get The Whooping Cough Vaccine While You Are Pregnant?

Whooping Cough Vaccine While Pregnant

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Are you pregnant and looking for information on the various vaccinations you will need to take now to keep yourself and your unborn baby safe? Have you heard about pertussis (whooping cough) and want to know if you need a shot to protect yourself against it? If you would like to know more about Pertussis and whether it is safe to take whooping cough vaccine while pregnant, go ahead and give this article a read.

What Is Pertussis?

Pertussis is an extremely contagious condition that affects the respiratory tract. In most cases of Pertussis, the patient suffers from a severe bout of a hacking cough. He makes a high-pitched ‘whooping’ sound with every intake of breath (1).

According to earlier medical theories, Pertussis was only a childhood disease. However, recent medical research proves the condition affects both young children who have not yet completed the full course of their vaccination and those adults who have a weakened immunity against the disease.

Deaths due to Pertussis are rare. However, the condition can increase the risk of infant mortality. Hence, doctors advise to take whooping cough shot while pregnant to protect their babies against the disease right from birth.

What Causes Pertussis?

Pertussis is a bacterial infection that spreads due to contact with an infected person. When the patient sneezes or coughs he transmits the germs into the air through tiny droplets. Anyone who inhales the bacteria is likely to suffer from the condition.

[ Read: Tdap Vaccine During Pregnancy ]

What Are The Symptoms Of Pertussis?

Your first symptoms will usually appear at least about seven to ten days since you contracted the infection. The symptoms will be mild in the initial stages and will not be very different from those of a common cold. Here are a few of the initial symptoms of Pertussis that you may notice:

  • Watery and red eyes
  • A cough and fever
  • Nasal congestion
  • Runny nose

[ Read: Remedies For Nasal congestion During Pregnancy ]

Your symptoms will worsen after a week or two. You will slowly develop thick mucus in your airways that will lead to a severe and uncontrollable bout of coughing. It can lead to the following:

  • Vomiting
  • Red or bluish tint to the face
  • Extreme tiredness
  • The coughing bout will end with a kind of ‘whoop’ sound every time you inhale.

In some cases, you may not develop the typical ‘whooping’ sound that gives the infection its name. Your only symptom of Pertussis could be incessant coughing.

[ Read: Symptoms Of Croup During Pregnancy ]

When Should You Visit A Doctor?

While you are pregnant, it is important for you to tell your doctor about any health issue you develop. Once you start coughing or get a fever, it is important to let your doctor know about the same. Your doctor may ask you a few questions over the phone to understand your condition or may also call you for a physical checkup. In case your doctor feels you have Pertussis he will treat you accordingly. In case you experience any of the following symptoms, make sure you seek medical help immediately:

  • If you are vomiting due to the coughing.
  • Your face has turned red or blue due to the strain of coughing incessantly.
  • If you are having trouble in breathing due to the consistent bouts of coughing or congestion.
  • Each time you try to inhale you make a whooping sound.

[ Read: Common Viral Infections During Pregnancy ]

Talking To Your Doctor About Whooping Cough Vaccine While Pregnant:

If you are pregnant and your doctor has not yet told you about the Pertussis vaccination, you can always check about the same with your medical team. You will most likely receive the whooping cough vaccine during pregnancy third trimester. However, your doctor is the best person to guide you on when it will be most effective and safest for you to take the same.

Make sure that other children and adults in your family also take their shots against Pertussis as their immunity may be waning. Ask them to time their vaccinations at least two weeks before your due date.

What Is The Pertussis Vaccination?

Your doctor may give you a shot of Tdap (tetanus toxoid, reduced diphtheria toxoid, and acellular pertussis) vaccine. It will protect you against conditions such as diphtheria, tetanus, and Pertussis (2). The best time during pregnancy for you to go for the Pertussis vaccination is between your 27th and 36th week.

Why Should You Take The Pertussis Vaccination During Pregnancy?

Taking the Pertussis vaccine during pregnancy will help to keep your baby protected against the infection especially in the first few weeks after birth.

  • Once you take the vaccination, the immunity that you receive against the infection will also pass on to your unborn baby in the womb through the placenta. It will provide passive protection to him that will help him ward off the infection until he receives the vaccination against it.
  • Doctors will administer the first vaccination of Pertussis to your baby when he is two months old.

Is It Safe To Take The Whooping Cough Vaccination During Pregnancy?

While you are pregnant, there are various vaccinations that you need to take. It is natural to worry about whether or not they are safe for your unborn baby too. As of now there are no studies that indicate that taking the whooping cough vaccine in pregnancy is unsafe for you or your unborn baby.

  • Various health agencies studied the vaccine against Pertussis to ascertain its safety and effectiveness during pregnancy. The vaccination does not cause any of the following complications related to pregnancy and childbirth – preterm labor, low birth weight, stillbirth, fetal distress, cesarean birth, kidney failure in the baby or infant mortality. Therefore, you can relax and safely take the vaccination during pregnancy to safeguard your precious little one against the contagious disease.
  • Earlier there was a concern that thimerosal, a preservative used in the vaccination, could cause brain damage. Medical research could not ascertain the theory. However, the use of thimerosal was discontinued as a safety precaution.
  • One of the main reasons for you to take the whooping cough vaccination while pregnant is that it will immediately keep you safe and protected against the infection. Also, the effects of the vaccination will reach your unborn baby through your placenta and grant him postnatal immunity for the first few weeks. The Pertussis vaccination will not just keep you and your newborn baby safe, but it will also form a protective layer around you that will prevent you from spreading the infection further.

[ Read: Signs Of Bronchitis During Pregnancy ]

Does Taking The Pertussis Vaccination During Pregnancy Help The Newborn?

Yes, most doctors agree to the fact that when a pregnant woman receives Pertussis vaccination, it offers immunity to her baby that lasts for a few weeks after birth.

  • Pregnant women who take the vaccination at least a week before delivery will see a 91 percent decrease in the risk of their newborn suffering from Pertussis in the first few weeks after birth.
  • Also, when you take the Pertussis vaccination while you are pregnant, you are also keeping yourself safe against the infection. It means that you will not develop the infection at any stage in the next few weeks, months or even years, and will not have the risk of passing the infection to your baby.

[ Read: Is It Safe To Get A Flu Shot During Pregnancy ]

Do You Need The Pertussis Vaccination During Each Pregnancy?

You may have taken the vaccination for Pertussis in one of your earlier pregnancies, but it is important for you to make sure that your doctor gives you the same during each of your subsequent pregnancies. Your doctor will vaccinate you for the same in the third trimester of each of your pregnancy.

Why Prenatal Pertussis Vaccination Is Better Than The Postnatal One?

When you take the vaccination for whooping cough while pregnant, you offer your unborn baby a passive protection.

  • It means that your unborn baby will have a blanket of protection against Pertussis for at least the first two months after his birth. Babies receive the first shot of Pertussis vaccination at two months of age. It means that if you do not take the vaccination while you are pregnant, your newborn will remain unprotected against the infection initially. Pertussis can be an extremely dangerous condition that can cause severe and even life-threatening complications in the newborn whose immunity is not strong enough to fight the infection.
  • During the first few weeks and months of life, your newborn is at the highest risk of catching any infection. It is the time when different people come to meet him. If a well-wisher is suffering from Pertussis, he can unintentionally pass on the infection to your baby.
  • The vaccination you take for pertussis during pregnancy will help your body produce antibodies against Pertussis. Your breast milk will also have the same antibodies that you will naturally pass on to your newborn while nursing him.
  • Most medical professionals also believe that the best way to protect newborns against Pertussis is to give the vaccination to the mother while she is pregnant. It is the best way to prevent the need for hospitalizing a newborn. It also helps to keep the threat of infant mortality due to Pertussis at bay.

However, it may be possible that you did not receive your vaccination during pregnancy, but do not panic. If you are almost at the end of your term, you can take the vaccination immediately after you give birth to your baby. Make sure that you speak to your medical team and get the vaccination against Pertussis before you leave the hospital or the birthing center. Your body will take about two weeks after the vaccination to develop the antibodies that will protect you against the Pertussis infection. Once you get the shot, you will be at a very low risk of passing the Pertussis infection to your newborn while you care for him.

Are There Any Side Effects Of The Pertussis Vaccine?

While you are pregnant, your doctor will do a proper assessment of your overall health and the progress of your pregnancy before giving you the vaccine against Pertussis. Here are some of the more common side effects of the Pertussis vaccine that affect 1 in 10 people: (3)

  • Pain and redness at the spot of vaccination. In some cases, there can also be a little swelling at the injection site.
  • Headache.
  • Feeling over tired or unwell even after resting properly.

Here are some of the less common side effects of the Pertussis vaccine that affect 1 in 100 people:

  • A fever that can go up as high as 102 degrees F.
  • Itching, bruising or numbness at the injection site are other side effects of the vaccination. In rare cases, there can also be a lump at the spot of the vaccination.

Here are some of the rare side effects of the Pertussis vaccine that affect 1 in 1000 people:

  • A fever higher than 102 degrees F
  • A swelling at the spot of the vaccine or in the limb
  • You may suffer from body ache and chills.
  • You may also experience dizziness or drowsiness.
  • You may start feeling itchy all over your body especially at the site of the injection.
  • Pain in the joints or the muscles
  • A lack of appetite
  • Tingling or numbness in the hands or feet
  • Swelling in the glands
  • Asthma or breathing difficulties
  • Cold sores

Extreme allergic reaction due to pertussis vaccination is rare. Seek immediate medical help if you suffer from a severe allergy post vaccination.

[ Read: Ways To Deal Dizziness During Pregnancy ]

Before you take any vaccination while you are pregnant, it is important to discuss its benefits and side effects at length with your doctor.

Did you take a whooping cough vaccine when pregnant? How did it benefit you and your darling baby? Did you suffer from any side effects? Please share your experience with other moms-to-be.

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