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Flu and whooping cough vaccine combo safe for pregnant women

Pregnant women can breathe easy about getting flu and whooping cough vaccines during pregnancy, and there's no reason to be concerned about getting them both at the same time, experts say.

Doctors previously recommended the two vaccines be given weeks apart. But a new, six-year study published Wednesday in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology reports that getting the shots at the same time is just as safe as spacing them out.

The researchers analyzed data on 36,844 women, ages 14 to 49, who received flu and whooping cough vaccines during pregnancy between 2007 and 2013. In 23 percent of pregnancies the vaccines were given at the same time and in the other 77 percent the vaccines were administered at separate times.

Vaccine research scientist and study co-author Marlene Lugg said they found no significant increased risk of fever or other adverse effects to mother or baby.

"There was no difference in early birth, low birth weight, in any of the babies' outcomes," said Lugg.

Dr. Richard Beigi, Chief Medical Officer and Vice President of Medical Affairs at Magee-Womens Hospital at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, told CBS News there was no reason to believe getting the two vaccines together would be unsafe in pregnant women, but it had never been addressed before in research.

"This study is reassuring in that it involved thousands of women at multiple centers," said Beigi, who is also a spokesperson for the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. "It validates what we've already known for years but it's really nice to see this. It provides reassurance that when you give them together it's very safe. There's no signal in study that would be of concern for an OB care provider."

Beigi said this study doesn't delve into how the vaccines impact the unborn baby after birth, but he said, "There's no reason to believe there would be an issue."

He said research suggests that if you immunize a mother with the flu vaccine it protects the baby as well. "Numerous studies show immunizing the mother protects the baby."

Pregnant women who catch the flu are at risk for serious complications and hospitalization, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Beigi said it's not clear why they're more vulnerable but it may be linked to immunological or anatomical changes during pregnancy.

Lugg said pregnant women need to "understand that it's extremely safe and it protects them and the baby."

Protection against whooping cough is also important for pregnant women and others who spend time around newborns since the illness can be extremely serious for infants.

Expectant mom Emily Whitehead, 32, is due in seven weeks and said she plans to get vaccinated against flu and whooping cough. The DTaP vaccine includes tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough.

"We definitely are mindful about vaccinations. I've heard that the whooping cough is, like, a really good one to get," she said.

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    Mary Brophy Marcus covers health and wellness for CBSNews.com