Today we welcome guest blogger Melissa Gambatese, MPH, Research Analyst in the Perinatal Data Center here at the March of Dimes. She offers an update on how a vaccine during pregnancy can keep your baby healthy when she is born.
When a new baby is born, we are so careful to protect her in every way. We wash our hands before holding her, tip toe past her room so as not to wake her, and swaddle her to keep her warm from the cold. However, one protection we may not think of is as simple and quick as a vaccination before she is even born.
Vaccines help protect us from diseases throughout life, from infancy to adulthood. But did you know that mothers can pass on the protection from some vaccines to their new baby before birth? The Tdap vaccine is one of them.
What is the Tdap vaccine?
The Tdap vaccine protects you from three diseases called tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis. Tetanus is caused by bacteria that attacks the nervous system. You can get tetanus through a break in your skin, like a cut or a splinter, but not from another person. Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, and diphtheria are highly contagious diseases caused by bacteria that are spread through coughing and sneezing.
Babies who get whooping cough can become very sick, and in rare cases, may die. The number of cases of whooping cough has been increasing since the 1980s. In 2012, more than 48,000 cases were reported. There is currently an outbreak in Washington state. Vaccination is the best way to protect yourself and your new baby from getting the disease.
Who should get the Tdap vaccine?
If you’re pregnant, you should get vaccinated during the 3rd trimester of your pregnancy. Get the vaccine every time you are pregnant, even if you’ve been vaccinated before. The protection from a previous vaccine can wear off over time, and a blood test cannot determine if you are still protected from a vaccine received earlier in your life.
Recently, the CDC published that, in 2011, only 55.7% of women in 16 states reported they received the Tdap vaccine before, during, or after their most recent pregnancy. Women who started prenatal care earlier were more likely to report they received the vaccine.
The Tdap vaccine is safe to receive during pregnancy; a recent study found that women who received the vaccine during pregnancy did not experience any increase in poor pregnancy outcomes than unvaccinated women. Talk to your health care provider-the best time to get the vaccine is during the 27th through 36th week of pregnancy. This ensures that you pass your protection on to your baby, which will help keep her safe until she is able to get her own pertussis vaccination at 2 months of age.
Brand new moms
If you did not get the Tdap vaccine during pregnancy, you should get the vaccine immediately after you give birth, before you leave the hospital or birthing center. It will take your body two weeks after receiving the vaccine to build up protection. You will then be less likely to pass whooping cough to your baby. New moms should get vaccinated even if you’ve been vaccinated before, because the protection from a previous vaccine wears off over time.
Relatives, close friends, and caregivers
Anyone who is around babies should get the Tdap vaccine, especially adults living in the same household as your baby. This includes grandparents, siblings, and other caregivers.
Whether you’re pregnant, a new mom, relative, close friend, or caregiver to a baby, talk to your health care provider about the Tdap vaccine. It’s just one more way we can protect our babies.