NHS Doctors and midwives are reminding all pregnant women across the South East to have their free flu vaccination this winter to help protect both themselves and their unborn child.
The flu vaccination is offered through GP surgeries, maternity service providers and community pharmacies.
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, which is safe for both mother and baby, 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. Having the 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 highly infectious and is caused by viruses that are spread from person to person. The viruses are constantly changing and this is one of the main reasons why pregnant women should be vaccinated each year. The symptoms, that can 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.
Dr Shahed Ahmed, NHS England Medical Director for Hampshire and the Thames Valley 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, and the vaccine can be given at any stage of pregnancy. If you are pregnant and haven’t yet had your vaccine this winter, it’s not too late. Please speak to your GP surgery; midwife or local participating pharmacy to arrange to have your free vaccine; protecting you and your baby.”
Strains of the flu virus change every year, and for that reason it’s important to have the vaccine each 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.
All pregnant women should have the flu vaccine to protect themselves and their babies. The flu vaccine can be given safely at any stage of pregnancy, from conception onwards.
Pregnant women benefit from the flu vaccine because it will:
- Reduce their risk of serious complications such as pneumonia, particularly in the later stages of pregnancy;
- Reduce the risk of miscarriage or having a baby born too soon or with a low birth weight;
- Help protect their baby who will continue to have some immunity to flu during the first few months of its life;
- Reduce the chance of the mother passing infection to her new baby.
The vaccine is free for pregnant women and is available from their maternity service provider; GP surgery or local pharmacy.
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