What is pertussis (whooping cough) and why is it so dangerous for babies?
Pertussis (whooping cough) is caused by bacteria. Pertussis can be deadly to infants. It may cause
coughing fits, choking, pneumonia, brain damage, and even death. In some cases, babies cannot breathe
or cough. Pertussis can cause serious illness and even death because newborns and infants are too
young to be fully vaccinated. It is necessary for mothers, family members, close friends, and caregivers
to be vaccinated against pertussis so they do not get infected and transmit the bacteria to your newborn
How do I know if I have pertussis?
Pertussis is an infectious disease that starts like a cold, with a runny nose and cough. As time passes, the
cough gets worse and lasts for a long time – possibly making you gasp for air or vomit after coughing fits
and coughing more at night. You may think it is a typical cough, but it could be pertussis. Your doctor
may run a test to see if you have pertussis.
How would I give the disease to a baby?
Pertussis spreads through droplets when you talk, cough, and sneeze.
Why do babies need to be protected from pertussis?
Pertussis can be deadly to infants. It keeps them from breathing and eating. It may cause pneumonia,
brain damage, and even death. In some cases, babies cannot breathe or cough.
How do I keep from getting pertussis?
The Tdap vaccine can prevent adults from getting pertussis and giving it to babies. If you have been
exposed to someone with pertussis, your doctor may give you antibiotics to prevent you from getting
sick, especially if you are pregnant or in contact with babies.
Is the vaccine safe?
The Tdap vaccine is safe for both adolescents and adults. It was approved by the Food and Drug
Administration (FDA) in 2005 and is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(CDC), the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Academy of Family Physicians.
For more information about vaccine safety, visit www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety.
Is it safe to get the Tdap vaccine while I am pregnant? Can it hurt my baby?
The Tdap vaccine is recommended for pregnant women. There is no evidence that the vaccine is harmful
to the mom or the baby.
When is it safe to get the Tdap vaccine while pregnant?
Tdap can be safely given at any time during pregnancy, but it is recommended that pregnant women get
the Tdap vaccine at 27 through 36 weeks. That is when the vaccine will provide the most protection for
you to pass on to your baby.
Will it be safe to breastfeed my baby if I get the Tdap vaccine?
Yes. It is safe to breastfeed after receiving the Tdap vaccine. Protection may be passed in breast milk.
What is the Tdap vaccine?
Tdap is a combination vaccine that protects against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis. Tetanus is a
disease that attacks the nervous system. Diphtheria is a disease that can cause breathing problems,
heart failure, paralysis, and even death. Pertussis (whooping cough) is a severe coughing illness that can
lead to serious disease, even death, in infants.
How do I keep myself and my baby from getting pertussis (whooping cough)?
Getting a Tdap vaccine when you are pregnant is the best way to protect both you and your baby from
pertussis (whooping cough). Another way to help prevent pertussis is to avoid others who have not
been vaccinated against pertussis. Do not allow persons who are coughing or sneezing near the baby.
Why do I need to have the Tdap vaccine?
Protection from your childhood pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine decreases as you get older, so
you may not be protected at this time. As an adult, the Tdap vaccine helps to protect you from getting
pertussis, so you do not get infected and transmit the bacteria to your newborn baby. Pertussis is very
contagious and can be easily passed from person to person when someone who is infected sneezes or
coughs into the air and the air gets breathed in by someone else. Newborns who are too young to be
fully vaccinated are most at risk.
When should we get the vaccine?
It is best to get the vaccine while pregnant. If you do not get it while pregnant, you should get it in the
hospital after you have the baby. Check with your doctor about any changes to recommendations for
Tdap during pregnancy. Your family should get it at least two weeks before the baby is born, but can still
get vaccinated at any time if they are going to be close to the baby.
Where can I get the Tdap vaccine?
Talk to your health care provider about getting the Tdap vaccine. Tdap vaccines are offered in various
locations, such as your health care provider’s office, local pharmacies, and local health clinics.
Can my baby get the pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine?
Yes. The pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine is called DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis). Babies
can get the DTaP vaccine when they are two months old, then again at four and six months. They are
not well protected until they get the third dose of the vaccine at six months.
How can I make sure my baby is protected until he/she gets his/her own vaccine?
Get the Tdap vaccine while pregnant so your baby will have some of your protection before he/she is old enough to get vaccinated. Also, ensure everyone who is going to be around the baby gets vaccinated with the Tdap vaccine. This includes the baby’s father, grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters,
baby sitters, and even doctors and nurses. Getting the Tdap vaccine is the best way to prevent adults from getting pertussis and then passing it on to your infant. This idea is called “cocooning.”
For more information about cocooning, visit www.PreventPertussis.org/cocooning.