Keeping fit and healthy in pregnancy is important for your baby’s growth and development. The immune system may be lower during pregnancy, so should you catch the flu it can become serious very quickly. So, the NHS in Birmingham is encouraging all pregnant women to get a free flu vaccination this winter.
Flu can cause many complications during pregnancy, particularly in the later stages, such as premature births or low birth weights. In some cases it can lead to stillbirth or death in the first week of life.
A review into maternal deaths in 20141 showed that nearly one in 10 deaths of new mothers is caused by flu. More than half of these could have been prevented by the flu vaccination.
Although maternal deaths are rare in the UK, you are at higher risk of complications by infections such as pneumonia, particularly in the later stages of pregnancy.
Dr Aqil Chaudary, a local GP and joint commissioning lead for children’s strategy at NHS Birmingham CrossCity Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said: “I would urge anyone who is pregnant to get the flu vaccination as soon as possible. During pregnancy a woman’s immune system may be lower. As a result, pregnant women are less able to fight off infections and therefore more likely to be seriously ill if they contract the flu virus.
“The flu vaccination is the best protection against flu. It’s safe during any stage in pregnancy, from the first few weeks through to the woman’s due date and doesn’t carry any risks for mother or baby. Women who have had the flu vaccine while pregnant also pass some protection on to their babies, which lasts for the first few months of their lives.”
Dr Chaudary added: “Even if you’ve had the flu vaccination in the last year, it’s important to get it again because the type of virus in circulation changes every year, so the vaccine changes too. If you are towards the end of your pregnancy, you can also have the whooping cough vaccination at the same time.”
If you are pregnant, you are eligible for the flu vaccination free of charge. It’s free because you need it. Ask your midwife or GP about flu vaccination now.
You can book an appointment at your GP practice or visit your local pharmacy - no appointment necessary. For more information visit www.nhs.uk/staywell