Getting the Tdap vaccine is a pregnancy decision that will have a lasting impact. Long after the showers are done and the baby is finally here, your antibodies will still be providing immunity to baby. Because of that I did not hesitate in getting it. I actually jumped the gun by asking my doctor about getting the shot early in my pregnancy. Once I hit the third trimester mark, she gave me the green light to get the vaccine and I made my way to a pharmacy immediately.
The Tdap vaccine helps build immunity against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. While all of these diseases are serious, it is the last one that is of greatest concern to new parents. Pertussis, or whooping cough, is a bacterial infection that affects the respiratory system. The symptoms can be especially serious for young babies and is absolutely heart breaking to see, since it is completely preventable.
So what are the main reasons why I got vaccinated?
Increase in pertussis cases. In the US, the greatest incidence of pertussis in 60 years occurred in 2012.
Passive Immunity. By getting the vaccination while pregnant, antibodies created by my body crossed the placenta into the baby’s system, providing him with short-term immunity to the disease until he’s old enough to get the DTaP himself. Small traces of the antibodies are also passed through breastmilk.
Infant vaccination schedule. Baby cannot begin to receive his own vaccination until the age of two months. Most whooping cough deaths are among babies younger than 3 months old, so it’s especially important to get this vaccine on time.
Vaccine safety. Recent studies show that it is safe to get while pregnant and there are no increased risks of pregnancy complications as a result of getting the vaccination.
The immunity to pertussis wanes over time. Even though I received a booster when our daughter was born two years ago, evidence shows that the concentration of pertussis antibodies decreases fairly quickly and those left in my system would not be enough to protect my son. In order to provide an adequate level of antibodies to my son, I needed to get it again during my pregnancy.
We take great steps to protect our children from potential physical dangers. We see this in how we purchase car seats and baby proofing gear for our homes. But some potential dangers are invisible, like the whooping cough bacteria. Since there was something I could do about that potential danger, I took advantage of the opportunity to protect my son by getting the Tdap vaccination while I was pregnant with him.
If you’re pregnant and have any questions regarding the Tdap vaccine, make sure you speak with your doctor or midwife. Here’s hoping for healthy pregnancies and babies!