How to Protect Your Newborn During Pregnancy with a TDAP Vaccine

How to Protect Your Newborn During Pregnancy with a TDAP Vaccine

A quick Google search delivers with ease lightning-fast information on thousands of medical topics. Weeding through the propaganda to find valid, accurate information is what's difficult. This is especially true with information about vaccines.

Many people don’t trust the science behind vaccines or understand why they're safe. Because of this, the U.S. is experiencing a surge in reluctance to vaccinate. This has resulted in major outbreaks of dangerous diseases like pertussis (whooping cough).  According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 41,000 cases of whooping cough and 18 related deaths were reported in 2012, the largest numbers in the U.S. since 1959. 

In 2010, an alarming whooping cough outbreak in California resulted in a high number of neonatal deaths. This triggered a new recommendation for TDAP (tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis) vaccination of pregnant women. Virtua OB/GYN Helen Gorlitzky, MD, shares all the facts about the TDAP vaccine, and why it’s so important for protecting moms and newborns.

What is the TDAP vaccine?  

The TDAP is an inactive (non-living) vaccine that protects adults from three bacterial infections: tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis.  As Dr. Gorlitzky explains, it's made up of tetanus and diphtheria toxoids (non-toxic proteins) and inactivated pertussis bacteria that can't infect you or your baby.

How does the TDAP vaccine protect pregnant women?

The antibodies generated during immunization protect pregnant women the same way they protect anyone—by stimulating your immune system to produce antibodies. Antibodies protect you from future encounters with these diseases. 

How does my TDAP vaccine protect my baby?

Infants can't be immunized before they’re 2 months old, so they rely on protection provided by their mothers. With the TDAP immunization, the mother’s antibodies pass to the unborn fetus, protecting the baby for a few months after birth.

The vaccine should be given to a pregnant woman between 27-36 weeks to allow antibodies to build up for a few weeks before birth.  Because these antibodies break down over time, you must receive the vaccine during every pregnancy.

How do we know the TDAP vaccine is safe to receive during pregnancy?

Dr. Gorlitzky reminds us that, as with any non-living vaccine, the proven benefits of TDAP far outweigh the unproven potential risks. There is no evidence of fetal side effects from vaccinating pregnant women with any inactivated viral, toxoid, or bacterial vaccines. In fact, data continues to accumulate demonstrating their safety.

If you still have doubts, your doctor can always help you separate fact from fiction.  Always ask for a professional opinion to help you make important healthcare decisions.

Updated June 6, 2016

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