Thursday, April 20, 2017

Pregnancy and Pertussis Prevention

Pregnancy is often considered one of the most beautiful yet complicated experiences in a woman's life. Woman are justifiably concerned about ensuring that they give their children the best start in life that they possibly can. Because of this love for their unborn child, women often modify their diets, stop drinking coffee and alcohol, and take the necessary vitamins and vaccines.  One of these important vaccines, Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, acellular pertussis), can protect infants for the first 2 months from pertussis, better known as whooping cough. Infants younger than 2 months of age are not eligible to receive the vaccine, but their mothers are. When pregnant women are vaccinated, they develop protective antibodies that cross the placenta into the infant's bloodstream.  The ideal time for pregnant women to receive this vaccine is between 27 and 36 weeks of gestation.  And any adult planning to be in close contact with the newborn should also be vaccinated.
Currently, there are an estimated 16 million cases of whooping cough around the world and 195,000 deaths annually. This staggering number represents individuals of varying ages.  For most adolescents and adults, pertussis presents most often as a lingering, troublesome cough.  However, for infants under a year of age, pertussis can be particularly severe and potentially fatal. This is because the coughing spasms associated with pertussis may interfere with the ability of infants to breathe.                                   
As seen in a study conducted by Kaiser Permanente*, vaccination during pregnancy resulted in up to 91.4% protective efficacy during the first 2 months of the child's life - a very vulnerable period.  The CDC's vaccine schedule for children recommends a series of shots between 2 months-6 years with a closely related vaccine known as DTaP . This vaccine has shown 85% protection after the second shot at 4 months.

So remember ladies, stay healthy, fit, and get your vaccines!

* Baxter R, Bartlett J, Fireman B, et al.  Effectiveness of vaccination during pregnancy to prevent infant pertussis. [published online April 3, 2017]. Pediatrics. doi: 10.1542/peds.2016-4091