If you or someone you know is pregnant, make sure they are aware of the importance of vaccines during pregnancy. Vaccines are an essential part of a healthy pregnancy because they protect you and your baby from serious diseases like whooping cough and the flu.
Whooping cough can be life-threatening for newborns. Up to 20 babies die each year in the United States due to whooping cough, and about half of babies younger than 1 year old who get whooping cough need treatment in the hospital.
The younger the baby is when he or she gets whooping cough, the more likely he or she will need to be treated in a hospital. It may be hard for you to know if your baby has whooping cough because many babies with this disease don’t cough at all; instead, it can cause them to stop breathing and turn blue.
A 2017 Center for Disease Control and Prevention evaluation found the whooping cough vaccination during the third trimester of pregnancy prevents more than 3 in 4 cases of whooping cough in babies younger than 2 months old.
When you get vaccines, you aren’t just protecting yourself – you’re giving your baby some early protection too.
When you get the whooping cough vaccine during your pregnancy, your body will create protective antibodies and pass some of them to your baby before birth. These antibodies will help protect your baby against whooping cough.
If you are pregnant during flu season, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention highly recommends getting the flu shot. Changes in your immune system, heart, and lung functions during pregnancy make you more likely to get seriously ill from the flu. Catching the flu also increases your chances for serious problems for your developing baby, including premature labor and delivery.
A 2018 study showed that getting a flu shot reduced a pregnant woman’s risk of being hospitalized with flu by an average of 40%.
Even before becoming pregnant, make sure you are up to date on all your vaccines. Rubella is a contagious disease that can cause a miscarriage or serious birth defects if you get it while you are pregnant. The best protection against rubella is the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine, but if you aren’t up to date, you’ll need it before you get pregnant.
A baby whose mother has hepatitis B is at highest risk for becoming infected with hepatitis B during delivery. Talk to your healthcare professional about getting tested for hepatitis B and whether or not you should get vaccinated.