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Moms-to-Be: When You Get the Whooping Cough Vaccine During Pregnancy Matters

New study pinpoints the best timing

Pregnant woman getting medicine via shot from doctor

The Tdap vaccine, which protects against serious diseases ― tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (AKA whooping cough) ― has been an important protective measure for pregnant women for years.


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Now, a recent study shows the ideal time for a pregnant mom to get the vaccine is at the beginning of her third trimester.

Why the third trimester?

The study looked at data on 626 pregnant women. Researchers found that women who were vaccinated with Tdap early in their third trimester had the greatest concentration of antibodies available to protect their babies.

When a woman gets a vaccine, she creates antibodies that travel through the umbilical cord to the baby. Ob/Gyn Salena Zanotti, MD, did not take part in the study, but says when it comes to the Tdap vaccine, protection against whooping cough is of utmost importance.

What we found, several years ago, was that many newborns were getting pertussis (or whooping cough). Because their immune systems and their lungs are still weak, they were getting very ill and had a significantly higher risk of pneumonia, or even death.

It’s important to note that getting both the Tdap vaccine and the flu vaccine at the same time is safe, Dr. Zanotti adds. And women should get re-vaccinated with Tdap each pregnancy.

Likewise, any other caregivers who will be spending significant time around the new baby should also get the Tdap vaccine every 10 years.

The take-home message: Tdap is very safe

The most important thing that pregnant moms need to know, Dr. Zanotti says, is that the Tdap vaccine is safe ― and highly recommended for anyone who will be spending a lot of time with the baby.

“Women need to know that the vaccine is safe and to talk about it, especially with their family members and friends who are going to be around the baby,” she says. “They should make sure they get it because all we’re doing is protecting the baby.”

Whooping cough can be fatal for infants. Women have been getting vaccinated during pregnancy since 2012, and doctors have been seeing less deaths from the respiratory disease. Dr. Zanotti notes.

Complete results of the study can be found in JAMA.


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