Is the TDAP Vaccine safe?

PC Diary @ 28W 1D

Is the TDAP Vaccine safe?  This is a question I asked myself AFTER I had the vaccine when it was offered to me at my 28 week appointment. How unlike me to not look into it before hand!!!?!

I was given a bundle of information at my first OB appointment – it all went into a folder and I occasionally check through it to see what is coming up next in my pregnancy.  It is pretty handy!  But for some reason I didn’t bother reading the info about the TDAP Vaccine.  Why?  Well I thought, I’ve had it before so – blah. whatever.

What is the TDAP vaccine? It’s a combination vaccine to protect against Tetanus, Diptheria and Whooping cough (Pertussis).  Well that is where I made my first mistake.  In 2007 I had a Tetanus, Diptheria and POLIO vaccine. Not Pertussis.  Silly Ps.  Anyway that is irrelevant because that needs a booster every ten years or so if you are travelling to some countries, so it was about due.  But actually here the issue is the Pertussis part – whooping cough.  This is the part that pediatricians are most worried about.  Babies can’t get vaccinated and start building protection against whooping cough until they are two months old. So to reduce this gap the mummy gets the vaccine during the third trimester of her pregnancy as there is some evidence that immunity may be passed on to baby.  They also ask for dads, grandparents, caretakers etc visiting the baby in the early 2 months to also have the TDAP vaccine – to create a safety bubble around the baby.  It all makes sense.

So when I was offered the vaccine I said – sure, yes! And signed my life away to receive it.  I also said yes to getting the flu vaccine too.  I have never had a flu vaccine before but thought as I am responsible for the baby I’m carrying I should probably get that too.  So I had one injection in each arm.  They were painless.  In fact, anything compared to Progesterone in oil injections seems easy!  The nurse asked which arm I would like my TDAP in because it can get a bit sore.  So I asked for that one in my left arm.

Several hours later my arm started to ache as the nurse warned me.  The arm with my flu shot also was sore a little bit, so sleeping was proving problematic.  I like sleeping on my side so I struggled to get comfortable and had the worst night’s sleep EVER.  Half way through the night I woke up in extreme pain, I was crying.  My left arm had gone practically numb and the rest of my body ached like I had run a marathon.  The next time I woke up (an hour later or so) the whole of my left side of my body was numb and tingly.  What the ??!!  I was exhausted and couldn’t face going into work.  I was achey and shivery.  I took a warm Epsom salt bath and a couple of paracetamol (acetaminophen) -the first time this pregnancy I have needed any drugs!  The internet suggested Ibuprofen, but we know that is not recommended so I stuck with the paracetamol.  After the bath I fell asleep for an hour and woke up feeling much much better.  the drugs, sleep and heat must have worked!  So I decided to take myself off to work because I had a lot to do and didn’t want to fall behind.  Honestly, it wasn’t a great day at work, I would have done better working from home, but Chris was already working from home so that wouldn’t have worked out.

I came home from work feeling like crap.  I wondered if this was normal.  So I decided to read the info about the TDAP vaccine.  Oh yeh – this can happen to 1 in 10 people who take it. WHAAAT?!  So I then looked into it more online to see how people were fighting these side effects.  Then I discovered the articles about TDAP in pregnant women.  Seriously, googling this stuff had me FREAKED out.  I came across websites dedicated to the dangers of TDAP in pregnant women.  That the CDC was citing one trial on 48 women in 2013.  Even I know that is statistically a pile of CRAP especially as this is about the effects on the unborn baby, not the woman.  The recommendation for women to have this vaccine in their third trimester has only been around since 2012.

Headlines like: “TDAP vaccine pushed on pregnant women despite fetal risks” and “Is your unborn baby part of a vaccine experiment?” are some of the first to come up on google results.

So I started to freak out at my lack of due diligence.  I had no clue when taking the vaccine how long it had been recommended for or what the evidence was.  I asked Chris – did I just do something naively? Was this something new?  Was I part of an experiment?

But after some more searching, I discovered that a lot of these stories are old and pre-date some much bigger studies that have been done over the past two years and recently published in 2015 and 2016.  You have to look hard to find these, I guess because of google’s algorithms with popularity the hype stories and anti-vaccine pages come up first.  Which is disappointing.  Here are two recent studies that show that the vaccine is safe, with much more confidence than the CDC had in 2013.

Pertussis vaccination in pregnancy is safe, study finds and Infant outcomes after exposure to TDAP vaccine in pregnancy: an observational study.

Admittedly, scientists do say if the baby is exposed to whooping cough early on, there is a good chance the baby will still get whooping cough, but evidence indicates that if mummy had her vaccine in the third trimester the symptoms will be less severe or life threatening.  So something to be aware of.

I only discovered all of this because I had a side effect to the vaccination, otherwise I wouldn’t have questioned it or thought otherwise!  I’m pro-vaccinations.  The only vaccination I ever turned down was anthrax, just before I deployed to Iraq.  Why?  Because even the Army nurse said I wouldn’t bother if I were you.  Chris and I both want our children to be vaccinated as our pediatrician recommends, but perhaps I will be a bit smarter about reading up on what is actually being given to my baby – just so I can have an informed debate on the whole vaccination thing with people who don’t vaccinate their kids.