Pregnancy: Protecting Baby Starts Now

A healthier body equates to a healthier baby. Thus, it’s essential to take care of yourself and your unborn child.

Besides having a healthy diet and regular visits to your doctor, maternal immunization is one of the best ways you can practice to ensure a healthy pregnancy. This early protection is vital for fighting diseases such as pertussis and influenza.

Pertussis or Whooping Cough

Newborn babies are at a high risk of developing pertussis or whooping cough. It’s a highly contagious respiratory disease known for violent and uncontrollable coughing. The cough usually ends in a whooping sound and affects breathing(1).

Symptoms usually begin within five to ten days after exposure. However, there are instances where symptoms develop for as long as three weeks(2)

Often, pertussis starts with cold-like symptoms. Babies also experience a pause in breathing patterns called “apnea.” As the illness progresses, severe symptoms like vomiting and rapid coughing followed by a high-pitched whoop also occur(3).

Recovery from such an illness happens slowly. Although the cough becomes milder and less common, it can return along with other respiratory diseases many months after the pertussis infection began(4).

A study in Oregon found that vaccinated individuals with pertussis infection had decreased illness severity and reduced disease duration(5). Therefore, the Tdap vaccine is highly recommended.

Tdap can boost a mother’s antibodies, which are transferred to her developing baby. When given between 27 and 36 weeks gestation, it optimizes neonatal antibody levels. Only one dose is recommended for each pregnancy(6).

Influenza (Flu)

Infants under six months are too fragile to be vaccinated. However, infants may benefit from passive antibody transfer once their mothers are immunized(7).

Flu vaccination during pregnancy is generally safe and provides babies with immunity for several months(8).

According to researchers, millions of pregnant women have received flu vaccination for many years without complications(9). Moreover, a 2018 study provided evidence that expectant mothers who received a flu shot reduced their risk of being admitted to a health center by an average of 40%(10).

If you are pregnant and get sick with flu-like symptoms, call your doctor immediately. Your clinician may prescribe antiviral drugs that can prevent serious complications.

Treatment should start as soon as possible since antiviral drugs work best within 48 hours after symptoms began. Typical flu symptoms include cough, fever, sore throat, runny or clogged nose, body aches, headaches, fatigue, and chills(11).

More Ways to Maintain a Healthy Pregnancy

Now that you know the importance of maternal immunization, here are a few more ways to ensure a healthy pregnancy:

Observe Your Weight

Gaining weight while expecting is entirely normal. If you had an average weight before getting pregnant, ACOG (the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology) recommends a weight gain of about 25 to 35 pounds(12).

Healthcare providers should determine a woman’s BMI (body mass index) at the initial prenatal visit. Individualized care and clinical judgment are crucial in discussing appropriate weight gain, exercise, and diet periodically throughout the pregnancy(13).

Take Prenatal Vitamins

Prenatal supplements, such as folic acid (folate), are essential among pregnant women. A study found that taking folate several weeks before pregnancy and for the first 12 weeks lessens the risk of a neural tube defect among infants(14).

Exercise Regularly

According to, moderate exercise routines like prenatal yoga are generally safe for pregnant women. ACOG recommends expectant mothers to have at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week(15).

If you weren’t physically active before, talk with your healthcare provider about what safe exercise you can do during your pregnancy. For the majority of normal pregnancies, an exercise routine can(16):

  • Improve sleep
  • Strengthen muscles and increase endurance
  • Increase energy levels
  • Relieve constipation
  • Decrease stress
  • Increase circulation
  • Reduce backaches

Make Good Lifestyle Choices 

Changing your lifestyle habits can directly affect the health of your baby. Therefore, expectant mothers should stop smoking and refrain from drinking alcohol during pregnancy. According to a study, prenatal exposure to such substances increases the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome)(17).

Alcohol consumption throughout pregnancy can result in FAS (fetal alcohol syndrome). The American Academy of Pediatrics warns that such a syndrome can cause an infant to have growth deficits and abnormalities in their central nervous system(18).

Have Regular Checkups

Prenatal care increases the chances of a safe delivery. Regular prenatal visits help your doctor monitor your pregnancy and identify any complications before they become serious.

Once you’ve learned more about your pregnancy, you have to schedule regular healthcare appointments throughout each trimester. Later visits may include changes in your body as you prepare for delivery.

If your pregnancy is high-risk, you may receive an abdominal ultrasound in your first trimester to confirm if the fetus is alive (fetal viability) and determine gestational age. It is beneficial for women who have a history of irregular periods.

Protecting your baby starts in the womb. Make sure to follow the above instructions so you and your baby are both healthy.


  1. Pertussis (Whooping Cough)

  1. Pertussis (Whooping Cough)

  1. Pertussis (Whooping Cough)

  1. Pertussis (Whooping Cough)

  1. Vaccinated Children and Adolescents With Pertussis Infections Experience Reduced Illness Severity and Duration, Oregon, 2010–2012

  1. Tdap (Pertussis) Vaccine and Pregnancy

  1. Influenza Vaccine Effectiveness in Preventing Influenza-associated Hospitalizations During Pregnancy: A Multi-country Retrospective Test Negative Design Study, 2010–2016

  1. Why Maternal Vaccines Are Important

  1. Flu & Pregnant Women

  1.  Influenza Vaccine Effectiveness in Preventing Influenza-associated     Hospitalizations During Pregnancy: A Multi-country Retrospective Test Negative Design Study, 2010–2016

  1.  Flu & Pregnant Women

  1.  Weight Gain During Pregnancy

  1.  Weight Gain During Pregnancy

  1.  Folate

  1.  Exercise During Pregnancy

  1.  Exercise During Pregnancy

  1.  Effects of Alcohol and Smoking During Pregnancy on Infant Autonomic Control

  1.  The Facts: Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders

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