Midwives at St Helier hospital are urging mothers-to-be to protect themselves and their babies by getting their flu jab this winter.
For most people, flu is an unpleasant but not serious illness. However, for people considered ‘at risk’ – including pregnant women – the impact can be devastating. NHS guidance recommends that all pregnant women have the flu jab, regardless of what stage of pregnancy they are at.
Marion Louki, Head of Midwifery and Gynaecology at Epsom and St Helier hospitals explained: “There is good evidence that there is a higher chance of pregnant women developing complications if they get flu, particularly in the later stages of their 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 the flu while pregnant it could mean your baby is born prematurely or has a low birthweight, and may even lead to stillbirth or death in the first week of life.”
The symptoms of flu are:
• Sudden fever – a temperature of 38 degrees Celsius or 100.4 Fahrenheit or above
• Dry, chesty cough
• Aching muscles
• Limb or joint pain
• Diarrhoea or upset stomach.
The flu vaccine only lasts for a year, so those who had a jab last year will need another injection this year. The jab doesn’t contain the ‘live’ virus so it cannot give people the flu.
Marion said: “Studies have shown that the flu vaccine is safe during any stage of pregnancy, from the first few weeks up to your expected due date. The vaccine doesn’t carry risk for you or your 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. The vaccine also poses no risk to women who are breastfeeding, or to their babies.”
The flu jab, which is free for pregnant women and those in other ‘at risk’ groups, is available from your GP or pharmacy. For more information about the flu vaccine for pregnant women, visit www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/flu-jab-vaccine-pregnant.aspx.