All pregnant women are being advised to get a flu jab as soon as possible to protect their babies and themselves, with the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and Royal College of Midwives (RCM) saying the free vaccination is particularly important this year because of Covid-19. Health experts are concerned that a combined outbreak of coronavirus and flu could overwhelm health services.
Though most people recover relatively quickly from flu, pregnancy can change the way the human body handles a viral infection. In rare cases, flu can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth and the death of the mother.
"Flu can be very serious during pregnancy for both mums-to-be and their babies and leaves women at higher risk of complications and, in some cases, can develop into pneumonia," says Gill Walton, chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives (RCM). That is why we are encouraging all pregnant women to have the vaccine as soon as possible, so they are protected from flu viruses circulating this winter.”
The RCM is also urging all midwives and maternity support workers to get vaccinated - to help protect the families they care for. Both the World Health Organization and the NHS are worried about the 'double danger' of flu and coronavirus this winter.
Scientific research shows getting both diseases at the same time can be serious and may be deadly.
The flu jab will help protect both you and your baby. There is good evidence that pregnant women have a higher chance of developing complications if they get flu, particularly in the later stages of pregnancy.
One of the most common complications of flu is bronchitis, a chest infection that can become serious and develop into pneumonia. If you have flu while you're pregnant, it could cause your baby to be born prematurely or have a low birthweight, and may even lead to stillbirth or death.
Studies have shown that it's safe to have the flu vaccine during any stage of pregnancy, from the first few weeks up to your expected due date. 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.
Contact your midwife or GP surgery to find out where you can get the flu vaccine. It's a good idea to get vaccinated as soon as possible after the vaccine becomes available in September.
In some areas, midwives can give the flu vaccine at the antenatal clinic. In others, you will need an appointment at a GP surgery.
The vaccine does not contain any live viruses, so it cannot cause flu. Some people get a slightly raised temperature and aching muscles for a couple of days afterwards, and you may feel sore at the injection site.
Find out more about flu vaccine side effects.
Talk to a GP as soon as possible. If you do have flu, there's a prescribed medicine you can take that might help, or reduce your risk of complications, but it needs to be taken very soon after symptoms appear.
Find out more about vaccines to protect you and your baby during pregnancy.
The flu jab is perfectly safe and free for pregnant women. There is no evidence that the seasonal flu jab will harm you or your baby at any stage of pregnancy. The vaccine does not contain a live virus, which means you cannot become infected from it.
Getting the flu jab will help to protect you and your baby. It can also protect your newborn against flu for up to six months after the birth.
A few women might feel generally under the weather for a day or two, but this should soon pass, and won't cause any problems for your baby.
There are two exceptions to this rule:
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The Coda Team