More Protection for Baby



As Kari Hyberston prepares for the birth of her second child, there’s plenty on her mind.

The busy mom and bank branch manager walks through the room that will become a nursery in the beginning of June. So far, she’s painted the walls and has started stocking the closet with diapers and baby clothes, but there’s plenty left to be done.

“You do your best to be prepared, but there’s only so much time,” the 33-year-old Sioux Falls woman says, holding up a tiny outfit in the room with newly bright blue walls.

So when her doctor suggested a vaccine in the second trimester of her pregnancy that could protect both her and her coming baby from pertussis, also known as whooping cough, she had no hesitation.

“There’s no time in my schedule for whooping cough,” Kari says. “Anything we can do to keep me and the baby healthy is good, as far as I’m concerned.”

A risk to babies

Newborns are at great risk for pertussis, a disease that causes extended fits of violent coughing, says Sanford obstetrician/gynecologist Pamela Ephgrave. Since the vaccine that prevents pertussis can’t be given to infants until they are a few months old, they are highly susceptible to the condition.

If an infant contracts pertussis in the first few months of life, the disease can lead to severe infections, brain damage or even death. The disease has been on the rise in the United States with more and more cases being reported, Dr.Ephgrave said.

“This is not something that you want your child to have,” she said. “There have been epidemics in recent years and even deaths with a number of children.”

New recommendation

It used to be common practice for doctors to wait to give new mothers the vaccine for tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (Tdap) shortly after their baby’s birth, Dr. Ephgrave said. Studies now show that the Tdap vaccine is safe for both mother and baby to receive during pregnancy and also provides some immunity to pertussis to the infant in the first few weeks of birth.

“The mother is able to pass along to the baby some of the antibodies she produces when she receives the vaccine,” Dr. Ephgrave said. “That way the baby even has some protection in the months before the baby’s shots start working.”

Dr. Ephgrave recommends that all adults who will be around the baby be immunized. Fathers, grandparents and caregivers all should make sure that their vaccination for pertussis is up to date before the baby is born.

“If you’re in close contact with the baby, you run the risk of spreading it,” the obstetrician said. “The TDAP is now considered safe for all people.”

Getting protection

As she looks around her soon-to-be nursery, Kari said she’s glad to know that her baby will be protected during those important first few months. At a time when she has plenty on her calendar, all she had to do was get a shot during one of her prenatal visits.

She has other things on her agenda: buying a crib, planning for her maternity leave from work and figuring out how to fit her 11-year-old son’s basketball, football and baseball games into a family schedule with a newborn, she says.

“When your child gets sick every plan you have stops and I don’t have time to stop,” Kari said. “I want to keep us all safe and not miss out on fun as a family.”

Posted Date: May 2012

More Protection for Baby

Expectant moms have a new way to protect their baby from whooping cough. Find out why one new mom opted to receive the pertussis vaccine during her pregnancy.