With only roughly 50% of pregnant women bothering to get vaccinated against either the flu or whooping cough (pertussis), and with only 35% of them getting both, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (C.D.C.) are urging women to educate themselves on the risks their decision to not vaccinate poses for both them and their unborn babies.
The report, which was done by the C.D.C., showed that there hasn't been much improvement with the rate of vaccinations during pregnancy despite their efforts to educate the public. Although seemingly harmless, as some categorize the flu and whooping cough with the common cold, the infections have the potential to be deadly in anyone- especially newborns.
The C.D.C. report says that 70% of diagnosed cases of whooping cough that ended in death were in babies less than two months of age. Influenza deaths are rare but death is still a potential side effect of contracting the virus, especially with an under-developed immune system or a compromised one.
Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the C.D.C., explains that "[they] are stressing the importance of two safe and effective vaccines for pregnant women and the risks to both women and their babies when these vaccines are not given during pregnancy."
Babies cannot get their first whooping cough vaccine until two-months-old, leaving them vulnerable and at risk. To add, the flu vaccine isn't recommended until six-months-old, further subjecting them to the consequences these infections can cause. By vaccinating during pregnancy, specifically early during the third trimester, the mother's antibodies are passed on to the fetus; antibodies that will remain present in their system for a while after birth.
In addition to post-birth protection, the vaccines help prevent pregnancy complications associated with the illnesses. BetterHealth reports that the influenza virus can cause complications such as miscarriage, premature birth, and stillbirth, in addition to the regular complications it can cause for the mother herself. Whooping cough can cause pneumonia, seizures, encephalopathy, and fetal death.
Losing your baby, or watching your baby struggle to breathe, are not things new moms/moms-to-be want to experience. By vaccinating yourself against these diseases, you are protecting yourself and your child. Stay informed and speak with your doctor to decide what's best for you.