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Tdap Vaccine Protects Mother and Newborn

1:45

A new study shows that the Tdap vaccine, (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis), is safe for pregnant women and their unborn child.

The vaccine does not appear to cause birth defects or any other major health problems for a developing fetus, according to a review of more than 324,000 live births between 2007 and 2013.

"We basically showed there is no association between receiving the Tdap vaccine during pregnancy and these congenital [birth] defects, including microcephaly," said lead researcher Dr. Malini DeSilva. She is a clinical investigator for HealthPartners Institute in Minneapolis.

Controversy over vaccines has caused some pregnant women to worry about possible side effects. The study is part of ongoing efforts to monitor the safety of vaccines, DeSilva said. Her center is part of the Vaccine Safety Datalink, a collaborative project led by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that includes health care organizations across the nation.

Whooping cough (also known as pertussis) is a bacterial infection that gets into your nose and throat. Whooping cough is dangerous in babies, especially ones younger than 6 months old. In severe cases, they may need to go to an ER. Babies with whooping cough may not make the typical whooping sound or even cough, but might gasp for air instead.

Babies can't receive the vaccine that protects against these diseases until they are 2 months old, DeSilva said. Until they do, they have a high risk of contracting whooping cough.

"In between the time they're born and their 2 months' visit, they don't really have any protective antibodies other than what has passed through the placenta," DeSilva said. "There have been some studies that show there is an increased chance of passing these antibodies when the mother gets this vaccine."

The researchers found that maternal Tdap inoculation wasn't significantly associated with increased risk for any major birth defects in vaccinations occurring at less than 14 weeks' gestation, between 27 and 36 weeks' gestation, or during any week of pregnancy.

Dr. Amesh Adalja is a senior associate with the University of Pittsburgh's UPMC Center for Health Security. He said, "This study illustrates the safety of maternal Tdap vaccination and the lack of an association with any birth defects." Adalja was not involved with the new report.

"Vaccination of pregnant women with this vaccine is an important aspect of protecting neonates from pertussis, a potentially fatal condition," Adalja added. "This study should reassure physicians and patients and hopefully increase vaccination rates in pregnancy."

The Tdap vaccine has been recommended for unvaccinated pregnant women since 2010 in California, and since 2011 across the United States, researchers said in background information.

The study was published Nov. 1 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Pertussis is very contagious and is particularly dangerous for infants. With the cold season underway, the Tdap vaccine is highly recommended for pregnant women as well as the general public.

Story sources: Dennis Thompson, https://consumer.healthday.com/public-health-information-30/vaccine-news-689/common-vaccine-is-safe-for-mother-baby-in-pregnancy-716379.html

Renee A. Alli, MD, http://www.webmd.com/children/guide/whooping-cough-symptoms-treatment#1

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