The Marion County Public Health Department joined other healthcare organizations in August to recognize National Immunization Awareness Month, so this is the perfect time to understand the importance of following the vaccination schedule from birth to adulthood as a way to protect against certain diseases.

When a woman is pregnant, she shares everything with her baby. Any vaccine a woman gets is not only protecting her, but is giving the baby some early protection. A woman should get a flu shot and whooping cough vaccine, also called Tdap.

(Photo by: Daniel Reche |

Whooping cough can be serious for anyone, but for a newborn, it can be life threatening. Up to 20 babies die each year in the United States due to whooping cough. About half of babies younger than one year old who get whooping cough need treatment in the hospital.

The younger the baby is when he or she gets whooping cough, the more likely he or she will need to be treated in a hospital. It may be hard to know if a baby has whooping cough because many babies with this disease don’t cough. Instead, it can cause them to stop breathing and turn blue.

When a woman gets the whooping cough vaccine during pregnancy, her body will create protective antibodies and pass some of them to the baby before birth. These antibodies will provide the baby with some short-term, early protection against whooping cough.

Changes in the immune, heart and lung functions during pregnancy make it more likely to get seriously ill from the flu. Catching the flu also increases a woman’s chances for serious problems for a developing baby, including premature labor and delivery. A flu shot protects a baby for several months after birth from flu-related complications.

An ob-gyn or midwife may recommend a woman receive some vaccines right after giving birth. Postpartum vaccination will help protect from getting sick and passes some antibodies to the baby through breastmilk. Vaccination after pregnancy is especially important for those who did not receive certain vaccines before or during your pregnancy.

The baby will also get his or her own vaccines to protect against serious childhood diseases. Learn more about CDC’s recommended immunization schedule for children and the diseases vaccines can prevent at

Keep in mind that many diseases rarely seen in the United States are still common in other parts of the world. Talk to an ob-gyn or midwife about vaccines if international travel during pregnancy is planned. More information is available at

Even before becoming pregnant, it’s important to stay up-to-date on all vaccines. This will maximize protection for mom and baby. For example, rubella is a contagious disease that can be very dangerous if contracted during pregnancy. In fact, it can cause a miscarriage or serious birth defects. The best protection against rubella is MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine.

A pre-pregnancy blood test will show any immunity to rubella. Most women were vaccinated as children with the MMR vaccine, but confirm this with a doctor. For women without the vaccine should avoid becoming pregnant until one month after receiving the MMR vaccine. Ideally, they should wait until after immunity is confirmed by a blood test.

CDC has guidelines for the vaccines needed before, during, and after pregnancy. Resources are available at

This article originally appeared in The Indianapolis Recorder.