If you're planning on adding another child to your family-or thinking about starting a family-you might want to consider getting the whooping cough vaccine before you get pregnant.
Why would you do that? According to a new study from Australia, babies who are born to women that are vaccinated with the whooping cough (also known as Pertussis) vaccine before they become pregnant have a 50% lower risk of developing the disease.
Whooping cough is an infection of the respiratory system. It mainly affects infants younger than 6 months old before they are immunized, and kids 11 to 18 years old whose immunity has started to decrease. Pertussis is characterized by severe coughing spells that may produce a whooping sound when the child breathes in.
It is highly contagious and before the Pertussis vaccine was available it killed 5,000 to 10,000 people in the U.S. each year. Now that there is a vaccine, the annual number of deaths is less than 30. But in recent years, the number of cases has started to rise. By 2004, the number of whooping cough cases spiked past 25,000, the highest level it's been since the 1950s.
The researchers looked at 217 babies ages 4 months and younger who had whooping cough. They compared them with 585 healthy infants born at the same time in the same area.
They discovered that a similar percentage of mothers - in both groups - received the whooping cough vaccine. However, 41 percent of the moms of healthy babies had been vaccinated at least four weeks before their infant became sick. However, of the mothers whose babies had whooping cough, only 27 percent of mothers had been vaccinated at least four weeks earlier.
Also in the healthy baby group, 26 percent of the mothers said they had been vaccinated before their baby was born, while only 14 percent of mothers whose babies had whooping cough said they had been vaccinated before delivery.
In this program, "there was no vaccination during pregnancy, so if a woman said they had it before birth, this meant before pregnancy," said Dr. Helen Quinn, a researcher at the National Centre for Immunisation Research & Surveillance of Vaccine Preventable Disease in Australia.
Quinn told MyHealthNewsDaily.com that in the study, vaccination before pregnancy lowered a baby's risk of developing whooping cough by a whopping 52 percent.
Another study has shown that a woman's body doesn't typically start to produce the anti-bodies needed to fight whooping cough until about 2 weeks after she receives the vaccine.
Researchers noted in the new study that babies who were part of large families and those who were less well off were more likely to get whooping cough. They also pointed out that babies who were breastfed were less likely to get sick.
Quinn said the findings "suggests that vaccination as part of pre-pregnancy planning would have the greatest impact on whooping cough infection."
Last year, an advisory board for The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended that women receive the whooping cough vaccination each time they become pregnant.
This study suggest that getting vaccinated before you become pregnant may actually offer your newborn an even better chance of being protected against whooping cough.