Pregnant Women Should Get Two Important Vaccines — But Most Aren't

Pregnant women will do almost anything to keep their babies healthy — but one important and easy step is being skipped by many moms-to-be in the United States: vaccines.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends pregnant women get the flu and whooping cough (Tdap) vaccines, since both these illnesses are common and dangerous. Getting the shots not only helps protect moms, but it helps protect their babies too — a key point to note, since newborns who get the flu or whooping cough are at high risk for hospitalization and death.

However, only 54% of pregnant women are getting the flu vaccine before or during pregnancy, and 55% of women are getting Tdap during pregnancy. A measly 35% of pregnant women have received both vaccines, says a new report from the CDC.

Disturbingly, 38% of the pregnant women who didn’t get the Tdap said they weren’t told the vaccine was needed. The CDC didn’t report on other reasons for skipping shots, but it’s no secret there’s some skepticism about vaccines in the U.S. today. Still, we can’t overstate the benefits of getting the recommended vaccines during pregnancy, among them:

  • Mom’s risk of hospitalization is lowered. Did you know you’re more likely to have to go to the hospital if you have one of these illnesses than a non-pregnant woman is? Getting the flu shot during pregnancy lowers a pregnant woman’s risk of hospitalization by 40%.
  • Baby’s protected too. If you’re vaccinated during pregnancy, you’ll pass antibodies on to your unborn baby. That gives them protection to fight off the flu and whooping cough even after they’re born. And that’s important, since newborns can’t get vaccinated for whooping cough until they’re 2 months old and the flu until they’re 6 months old.
  • A newborn’s risk of hospitalization is lowered. A newborn is 72% less likely to need to be hospitalized for the flu and 78% less likely to get the whooping cough if their mother received those respective vaccines while pregnant.

If you’re pregnant, talk to your doctor about getting your flu and whooping cough vaccinations. The CDC says the flu vaccine is safe during any trimester of pregnancy and recommends getting the Tdap vaccine in the early part of the third trimester.

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