Story by: Maggie Roetker on October 10, 2019
Getting a flu shot is important for everyone, but it’s even more critical for women who are pregnant. The same is true for the whooping cough vaccine. Why? The vaccines help protect you and help your baby fight off the flu and whooping cough after birth. Both can be deadly for a young infant.
Despite this, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that less than half of pregnant women surveyed were receiving recommended vaccines for flu and whooping cough.
“One of the most important things you can do is get flu and whooping cough vaccines,” said Anna Ackerman, APRN, nurse practitioner with Norton OB/GYN Associates. “In addition to reducing the risk of getting the flu or whooping cough, the shots can help protect your baby since you’ll pass antibodies on during pregnancy as well as afterward through breastfeeding.”
“As flu season approaches, it’s important to remember that infants cannot get the flu shot until they’re 6 months old, so this added protection is important during the early months,” said Mark A. Brockman Jr., M.D., pediatrician with Norton Children’s Medical Associates – Iroquois.
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In addition to protecting baby, the vaccine is important for pregnant women.
“During pregnancy, the flu can have extremely serious consequences because of changes to a woman’s immune system, lungs and heart,” Anna said. “When pregnant women get the flu, they are much more likely to be hospitalized.
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“Many also need to be in the intensive care unit due to complications, including pneumonia, which causes severe lung problems.”
In addition, a pregnant woman’s high fever from the flu may put a baby at risk for neural tube defects that affect the brain, spinal cord and other parts of the baby’s development. Pregnant women with the flu are more likely to go into preterm labor or give birth prematurely, according to Anna.
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According to the CDC, 69 percent of whooping (pronounced “HOOP’-ing”) cough deaths are in babies 2 months and under.
“Whooping cough is a severe respiratory infection that not only causes cough and difficulty breathing but may cause infants to stop breathing altogether,” Dr. Brockman said. “It is extremely serious for infants and young children.”
“Every pregnant women also needs a vaccine for whooping cough, or pertussis,” Anna said. “This Tdap vaccine is important during each pregnancy to help protect your baby.”
The Tdap vaccine reduces the risk of a baby getting whooping cough by 78 percent, according to CDC data. It also reduces the risk of a baby under 2 months needing to be hospitalized for whooping cough by 91 percent.
“If you’re pregnant and haven’t received the flu and whooping cough/Tdap vaccine yet, please talk to your medical provider,” Dr. Brockman said. “It really can help protect your baby.”
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