HEALTH OFFICIALS have this week stressed the real dangers to pregnant women who fail to protect themselves against the flu.
A pregnant woman who contracts flu is five times more likely to have a stillborn baby or for their baby to die in the first week. They are also three times more likely to deliver prematurely, so health officials in Wales are actively promoting the free flu vaccine to help protect pregnant women against the dangers of flu to both themselves and their unborn baby.
A pregnant woman who catches flu is seven times more likely to die than a non-pregnant woman with flu, but despite this many pregnant women didn’t have the free vaccination last year.
Dr Richard Roberts, Head of the Vaccine Preventable Diseases Programme at Public Health Wales, explains why, and how, pregnant women should protect themselves from flu:
“Expectant mothers do not have the same ability as other healthy people to fight viruses such as flu, and this can be devastating for the woman and her unborn baby.
“If a pregnant woman catches the flu it can cause severe complications to mum and baby: but this can all be prevented with one quick, simple vaccination”.
A number of studies have also shown that flu vaccination during pregnancy also provides a level of immunity against flu to infants in their first few months of life.
Women can have the flu vaccination at any stage in their pregnancy, but the sooner the better. It is perfectly safe to breastfeed after the flu vaccination. Lots of information and data on inactivated flu vaccines has been collected from across the world and there is no indication that these vaccinations have an adverse effect on mother or baby.
The annual flu vaccination programme aims to ensure that the people who need it most get free protection each year against the flu. This includes everyone aged 65 and over and people with certain long term health conditions, as well as pregnant women.
This year for the first time a flu nasal spray vaccine is being offered to children who were two or three years old on 1 September and school year 7 pupils. The younger children will have the spray in their GP practice and Year 7 children will receive their nasal spray vaccine in school.
Pregnant south Wales sisters beat flu by getting their free jab together.
Two sisters from south Wales have opted to beat flu together as they took themselves, and their baby bumps, to the GP for their free vaccination.
Sisters Kate Williams and Beth Johnson, originally from Ammanford in Carmarthenshire, wanted to protect themselves and their babies against the dangers of flu that are especially problematic for mums-to-be.
Carmarthenshire sisters Kate and Beth are not willing to take any chances with flu this year. 6 months pregnant and mother of one Kate Williams, 38, said:
“I decided to have the flu jab as I will be pregnant throughout the winter and definitely do not want to be hit by the flu virus for the sake of my health and my unborn baby.
“I heard the adverts on the radio about the free vaccination and called my surgery to book an appointment. It was really easy and not painful. I now have the peace of mind that I and my unborn baby will be protected. I would advise all pregnant women to go and get the jab so you and your baby are protected.”
Kate’s younger sister Beth Johnson, 35, is 8 months pregnant. She added:
“My surgery advised me to have the flu jab as I was pregnant. Initially I didn’t realise I was eligible for the free vaccination or that I should have it, but after hearing how ill you can be with the virus and what serious consequences it can have for pregnant women and unborn babies, I had it. Now I’m happy that I will be protected and can rest easy approaching the final stages of my pregnancy.”