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Pregnant Mothers and Whooping Cough

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Reproductive System related image Photo: Getty Images

Due to recent outbreaks of whooping cough, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and other federal advisory panels have now recommended that pregnant women receive vaccinations, particularly women who are in their late second trimester or third trimester.

Is this really necessary or even safe?

Let’s look at the disease itself. Whooping cough, otherwise known as pertussis, is a very contagious disease characterized by violent and repeated coughing. It is an upper respiratory infection brought on by bacteria (Bordetella pertussis). It can cause disability and death, particularly in infants.

Before vaccines began to be used, infants and small children were affected most. This trend shifted after children began to be given a series of shots beginning at infanthood. Afterwards, those affected most were teenagers and adults.

The bacteria are spread by coughing. Symptoms may start out like a simple cold but then severe coughing episodes can kick in about a couple of weeks later -- breathing is difficult, running nose, fever and diarrhea may persist.

If the diagnosis is made early, then antibiotics can be used successfully. This disease, however, is not usually treated in its early stages, so more intense treatment is administered.

Treatment may include:

Oxygen tent
Fluids given through vein
Sedatives – usually prescribed for young children
Antibiotics – to prevent the spread of the disease
Constant supervision for babies and small children due to danger of severe breathing problems

Based on this information, we can see that it is a serious disease and possibly fatal but is the vaccination safe to pregnant mothers? While the CDC stated there is evidence that this vaccination would not cause a safety problem during pregnancy, there are other experts who stated just the opposite.

In fact, The Imperfect Parent website referred to opposing critics who claimed giving this medicine to pregnant mothers would clash with the baby’s “ability to receive full benefits of their own vaccination, usually given its first dose of five at around four months of age.”

What should mother-to-be do then? Be sure to talk to your trusted and experienced physician. Consider the risks and make the best informed decision you can with the information given and/or made available to you.

Best in Health!


CDC Changes Position on whooping Cough Vaccine for Pregnant Women. The Imperfect Parent. Web. 28 November 2011.

Pertussis. PubMed Health. Web. 28 November 2011.

Pertussis (Whooping Cough) – What You Need To Know. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Web. 28 November 2011.

Dita Faulkner is a Southern girl with New York flair. Visit her blog at: http://redtoenails.wordpress.com/category/fashion-statement/

Reviewed December 6, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.