Health Warning on Whooping Cough

Whooping cough during pregnancy model 01, OGCG Melbourne, VIC

Whooping cough is a highly contagious bacterial respiratory illness. The illness spreads through coughing and sneezing. We suggest that you check that all members of your household are up to date with their immunisations, including children and adults.

The symptoms of whooping cough can be mild in adults. In infants, who are too young for vaccination, the infection can be deadly.
An adult whooping cough booster is suggested if it has been a decade since your last booster.

Your baby’s first whooping cough vaccination can be safely administered when they are two months old.

Whooping cough and pregnancy

Whopping cough is a very serious illness for babies that have not been vaccinated and are younger than 12 months of age. It can lead to severe complications that include permanent brain and lung disability. It can also lead to death.

Getting the whooping cough vaccination during pregnancy is the best way to offer protection to your little one, from the moment that they are born.
The optimal time frame for vaccination is between 20-32 weeks of pregnancy. If you are at high risk for a premature delivery, you should have the vaccine as early as is possible. This will allow your body time to produce the antibodies that will be passed onto your unborn baby.

These antibodies will cross the placenta. The antibodies will offer protection for the baby in the first few months of life before he or she can be vaccinated.

If you haven’t had the vaccine in pregnancy you should have it postpartum. Parents and any other adults who will care for the baby should have a vaccine booster if more than 10 years has elapsed since the last dose. Ideally, the vaccinations should be administered two weeks prior to contact with the infant.

The seriousness of whooping cough

Caused by highly infectious bacteria, whooping cough impacts the airways and the lungs. Babies have soft airways. The severe episodes of coughing that accompany whooping cough can lead to significant damage. In some little ones, whooping cough can be fatal.

Whooping cough results in coughing spells that are lengthy and serious. They can often end in a whooping sound, when the individual tries to catch their breath after extensive coughing.

The first signs of whooping cough can be difficult to miss, as they are quite similar to the signs of the common cold. These include the following.

  • Low grade fever
  • Mild cough
  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose

After a week, the dry and irritating cough will evolve into lengthy coughing spells. The lengthy coughing spells can last for over a minute. The child may begin to turn red or purple. The child may be heard making the characteristic whooping sound when trying to take a breath after a coughing spell.

Protecting babies through vaccination is the best way to keep them from contracting this illness.

Is the whooping cough vaccine safe?

Yes. The vaccine is safe for both the mother and unborn baby when it is administered during pregnancy. The vaccination does not increase the risk of complications or prematurity.

Are there any side effects from the vaccine?

The only reported side effects of the whooping cough vaccination are redness, tenderness and mild swelling at the injection site. These side effects subside within a short period of time.

When should I get vaccinated?

Pregnant women who are at risk should receive the vaccine between 20 and 32 weeks of pregnancy. The sooner that a vaccine in administered, the sooner the antibodies can be formed. These antibodies pass through the placenta to protect the unborn baby.

Will the vaccine protect me long-term?

The immunity that you receive from the whooping cough vaccination will fade over time. You will need to get the vaccine for each subsequent pregnancy.

Who else should get the vaccine?

It is important that any person who will be close to your baby during those first few weeks of life also get the whooping cough vaccine. Ensure that older children are current on their vaccines.

Is the baby at risk if I get whooping cough during pregnancy?

Whooping cough will pose little threat to the unborn baby, unless you are still contagious when the baby is born.

5 female specialist obstetricians, O&GCG Melbourne, Dr Jean Wong, Dr Leah Xu, Dr Natalia Khomko, Dr Perri Dyson and Dr Robin Thurman

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