Pregnant women urged to have flu vaccine

Flu is a serious risk to both the mother and unborn baby

Doctors and midwives are urging pregnant women across the Island to protect themselves and their unborn child from flu by getting the flu jab this winter.

Now is the ideal time for expectant mothers to have the flu vaccination; available from their GP, maternity service provider or pharmacy, before the flu virus starts circulating.

Pregnancy naturally weakens the body’s immune system and as a result, increases the risk of a mother and unborn baby becoming seriously ill from flu. All pregnant women are recommended to receive the flu vaccine irrespective of their stage of pregnancy.

It is very important that pregnant women get the flu jab and protect themselves and their baby as soon as possible. Flu can make otherwise healthy people feel very poorly for up to a fortnight. There is also strong evidence that pregnant women have an increased risk of developing complications if they get flu which can harm them and their unborn baby. These risks include bronchitis, pneumonia and an increased risk of having a miscarriage or the baby being born prematurely or with a low birth weight.

Flu is a highly infectious disease. It is caused by viruses that are spread from person to person. The viruses change each year and this is one of the main reasons why pregnant women should be vaccinated annually. The symptoms, that come on very quickly, include fever, chills, headaches, aches and pains in the joints and muscles, and extreme tiredness.

The best way to avoid getting the flu is by having the vaccination. Doing so reduces the risk of developing the illness significantly.

The NHS England Medical Director for Hampshire and Thames Valley, Dr Shahed Ahmad, said; “It’s important that all pregnant women protect themselves and their unborn baby by having the vaccination. Flu is a serious risk to both the mother and unborn baby. Pregnant women have an increased risk of developing complications from flu. The vaccine can be given at any stage of pregnancy and is safe for mother and baby. So if you are pregnant and haven’t yet had your vaccine, please speak with your GP; maternity service provider or local participating pharmacy as soon as possible. The vaccine is free and will offer protection to you and your baby.”

Strains of the flu virus change every year, and for that reason it’s important to have the vaccine every year. Even if someone thinks they’ve already had the flu, they should still have the vaccine, there is more than one type of flu virus, and it’s important to reduce the risk as much as possible.