Why get vaccinated against whooping cough in pregnancy? 

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Catherine Le Nevez
@catherinelenevez
Author and references

La whooping cough it's a highly contagious respiratory disease, caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis, which is transmitted through the droplets of saliva and mucus emitted during a conversation, a sneeze or a cough.  

Newborns and infants in the very first months of life are in great danger, because they have not yet started their vaccination process.  

Why is it important to vaccinate against pertussis in pregnancy? 

In Del Paese, in the period 2001-2022 there were 7000 hospital admissions caused by pertussis and more than half concerned children under the age of 1 year. 


THE80% of newborns with less than 1 year contracting whooping cough is provoked by a family member that infects them without knowing that they are carriers of the disease.  


For this reason it is necessary to protect newborns from the risk of contracting pertussis by vaccinating the pregnant mother

La vaccination in pregnancy against whooping cough is free and it's strongly recommended by the Ministry of Health through the National Vaccine Prevention Plan. 

It is important to remember that the mother's antibodies progressively reduce over time; for this reason it is appropriate that the mum repeat the vaccination at each pregnancy, so as to ensure proper protection against whooping cough for your children. 

What is the recommended period to get vaccinated during pregnancy? 

The expectant mother transfers antibodies (IgG) to her child naturally throughout pregnancy, with a peak during the third trimester. 

To transmit a high amount of antibodies to the unborn child that will protect it in the first 2 months of life, the expectant mother should be vaccinated against whooping cough in the third trimester of pregnancy, between the 28th and 36th week of pregnancy, ideally around the 28th week.  


If the mother was not vaccinated during pregnancy, the vaccination immediately after childbirth, in such a way as to prevent possible contagion from mother to child.  

In any case, vaccination in the third trimester of pregnancy against pertussis (present in the dTpa, anti-diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis vaccine) remains the strategy more effective than postpartum vaccination (85% effectiveness). 


Is the pertussis vaccine safe for mom and baby? 

Numerous studies they were conducted to evaluate the safety on both the mother and the fetus and the results are very solid and reassuring. The vaccine in pregnancy is effective and safe, both for the mother and for the baby! In fact, there are no reported vaccine-related adverse effects that could in any way affect the course of pregnancy or the health of the fetus and newborn.

In particular, for mom the most commonly observed side effects include local reactions at the injection site (pain, redness and swelling), headache and fatigue.  

Therefore, pertussis vaccination in the third trimester of pregnancy is the best strategy to protect infants in the first months of life when they are too young to start their basic vaccination course. 

References 

  • New challenges in prevention for mothers and babies. Invest in recommended vaccinations during pregnancy. Whooping cough. Dr. Anna Franca Cavaliere prof. Giovanni Swaps 
  • Infant outcomes after exposure to Tdap vaccine in pregnancy: an observational Study Tony Walls,1 Patricia Graham,1,2 Helen Petousis-Harris,3 Linda Hill,4 Nicola Austin1,2 
  • Maternal Immunization Helen Y. Chu1 and Janet A. Englund2 1 Department of Medicine, Division of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, University of Washington, and 2 Department of Pediatrics, Division of Infectious Diseases, Seattle Children’s Hospital, Washington 
  • Ministry of Health: Recommended vaccinations for women of childbearing age and pregnancy.Update November 2022 
  • Maternal vaccination against pertussis: a systematic review of the recent literature Despoina Gkentzi,1,2 Paraskeui Katsakiori,3 Markos Marangos,2 Yingfen Hsia,4 Gayatri Amirthalingam,5 Paul T Heath,4 Shamez Ladhani 
  • Pertussis Immunisation in Pregnancy Safety (PIPS) Study: A retrospective cohort study of safety outcomes in pregnant women vaccinated with Tdap vaccine Jennifer B. Griffin a , Lennex Yu b,1 , Donna Watson c , Nikki Turner c , Tony Walls d , Anna S. Howe c , Yannan Jiang b , Helen Petousis-Harris c 
  • Strategies to Decrease Pertussis Transmission to Infants Kevin Forsyth, MD, PhDa , Stanley Plotkin, MDb , Tina Tan, MDc , Carl Heinz Wirsing von König, MD 
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