By SMH Director of Obstetrical Services Judy Cavallaro
Did you know a woman’s immune system is naturally weakened during pregnancy? While this helps protect the pregnancy, it makes it more challenging for pregnant mothers to fight off bacterial or viral infections like the flu and whooping cough.
Flu and whooping cough can be deadly — especially for infants and pregnant women. Women with the flu are more than twice as likely to be hospitalized when pregnant. Babies younger than 6 months are the most at-risk of all children for hospitalization from flu, and 69 percent of reported whooping-cough deaths occur in babies younger than 2 months.
Thankfully, there are vaccines available to protect both mom-to-be and her developing baby from these infections. Yet, only 1 in 3 pregnant women receive both the flu and whooping cough vaccine.
Studies show that the flu (influenza) and whooping cough (Tdap) shots are very safe and effective when given during pregnancy, for moms and babies. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all pregnant women receive the flu and Tdap shots.
The flu shot can be given at any point during pregnancy; however, the CDC advises pregnant women to get the Tdap early in the third trimester. Tdap recipients aren’t fully protected until two weeks after getting the shot, and getting it early on in the third trimester allows time for antibodies to be passed on to the baby before birth, offering them protection through the critical first few months of life since newborns (younger than 2 months) cannot be given the vaccine.
Family and friends who will have close contact with the baby once he/she is born — fathers, siblings, grandparents, close family friends, caregivers, etc. — should also get the Tdap shot to reduce baby’s risk of whooping cough infection. Of the newborns who contracted whooping cough in the US in recent years, 4 out of 5 got it from someone who lived with them.
Still unsure about getting vaccinations during pregnancy? Talk to your doctor or nurse midwife about what’s right for you. For most, the benefits will far outweigh any potential concerns. Experts recommend that pregnant women and other mothers get a flu shot each flu season, a Tdap vaccine during each pregnancy and any childhood or adult immunizations needed to be current on on recommended vaccinations.
Free Flu & Tdap Shots
Through a vaccination program called Welcome Baby, the Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County offers flu shots and Tdap vaccine at no cost to pregnant women, their family members and/or caregivers who will have close contact their newborn. The free vaccination clinics are located at 2200 Ringling Blvd. in Sarasota, and 6950 Outreach Way in North Port, FL.
Vaccinating pregnant women protects moms and babies.
A 30-year nursing veteran in Labor-Delivery and Mother-Baby services, Sarasota Memorial Director of Obstetrical Services Judy Cavallaro, MSN, RN, works very closely with SMH’s OB nurses, OB/GYN and Maternal-Fetal Medicine physicians, and Anesthesia and Pediatrics teams to support compassionate, family-centered birth experiences for mothers in our community.