The flu virus can mutate (change) very quickly, so each year new strains of flu can be
circulating. This is why you need to be vaccinated during each pregnancy, to
protect you and your baby from the flu strains that are currently circulating.
is very different to a cold. A lot of
people say they have flu when actually they mean they have a cold or another
viral infection. Some of the symptoms
are similar however, so it can be hard to identify without a blood test.
symptoms typically come on suddenly, unlike a cold which usually gets worse
over a few days. With flu, in the
morning you could feel normal and by the afternoon you could feel very unwell
and unable to carry out your normal day to day activities. People with flu can feel unwell for up to two
common symptoms of flu are (you may not experience all of these):
showing differences between cold and flu – taken from Centre for Disease
Control and Prevention website. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/consumer/symptoms.html
about those around you; around 60% of people infected with flu do not have any
symptoms. That means that you can be at
risk of catching flu from others, without even knowing it.
itself is not a pleasant infection and can cause you to feel very unwell. Severe flu is more common for pregnant women
than non-pregnant women. When you are
pregnant the risk of flu causing other problems is higher, especially in the
later stages of pregnancy. Flu has the
ability to cause:
Worsening of pre-existing health conditions, such as asthma
risk of harmful side effects is higher if you also have one or more other known
risk factors such as asthma or diabetes.
baby is also affected by flu if you are to catch it while you are pregnant and
studies show that you are at increased risk of:
For patient stories and examples please click here.
flu vaccine is offered for free to high risk groups to try and prevent the
spread of infection during the cold months.
Pregnant women are included as a high risk group and it is recommended
that all pregnant women take up the offer of a flu vaccine.
vaccinations are very safe and cannot give you flu from having the
vaccine. The flu vaccine given to
pregnant women is inactivated (not live) and is shown to be safe to have at any
time in pregnancy.
flu vaccine is called a quadrivalent vaccine.
This means that the vaccine will help to protect you against four
strains of flu. Two ‘A strains’ and two
‘B strains’. A new vaccine is produced every year to protect against the
strains most likely to be circulating.
Pregnant women should aim to have the flu vaccine as soon as possible in pregnancy from the end of September until the end of March. This may be right at the beginning of pregnancy, if you find out you are pregnant in the winter months, or towards the end of your pregnancy if you fell pregnant in the spring/summer months.
Sometimes you may be offered two flu vaccines in your pregnancy, if you have fallen pregnant at the end of one flu season and are still pregnant in September when the next flu season begins. This will cover you for both seasons of flu.
you receive the flu vaccine, you are less likely to catch flu and develop some
of the associated complications. If you
reduce your chance of catching flu, you also reduce the chance of miscarriage,
stillbirth, premature labour and the risk of having a poorly grown baby as a
result of flu.
can be really a serious illness in new-born babies and the only way to protect
them is to get vaccinated yourself when you are pregnant. Following vaccination, your baby will
directly receive some of your newly made antibodies through the placenta which
will offer them protection against the same four flu strains for at least the
first 8 weeks of their life following birth.
Some studies show babies can even be protected from flu for up to 6
is also another level of protection. By
protecting yourself against flu, you are reducing the chance of catching flu
and therefore reducing the chance of passing it on to your new-born baby.
is not uncommon to worry about the decision to have vaccinations in pregnancy
and health professionals understand that you need to have as much information
before you make a decision to have a vaccination while pregnant.
women have been included in the flu vaccination programme since 2010 following
a flu epidemic that caused an increased in the number of deaths. Since its introduction, the flu vaccine has
been given to millions of pregnant women across the UK.
from over 11 million women who have received the flu vaccine in pregnancy show
that, apart from mild pain at the site of the injection, there is no evidence
of an increased risk of birth defects or stillbirths.
possible, the risk of a severe allergic reaction (also known as anaphylaxis) is
extremely low. All medicines and food
ingested, injected or applied to the skin have a risk of causing this type of
allergic reaction. Anaphylaxis is
different from less severe allergic reactions because it causes
life-threatening breathing and/or circulation problems. It is always extremely serious but all health
care workers providing vaccines know how to treat this should it occur. The risk of a severe allergic reaction
following an immunisation is around 1 in 900,000.
is no risk of catching flu from receiving the flu vaccine. The vaccination provided has been deactivated
(killed). Your immune system is likely
to be very slightly weaker for 1-2 weeks while your body builds the protection
against flu, so you are slightly more susceptible to picking up other
bacterial/viral infections in this time should you come in contact with them.
flu vaccine is the best way of protecting yourself against the virus during
pregnancy. Currently the vaccine is
thought to be around 60-70% effective for pregnant women and near 90% effective
for babies born from vaccinated mothers.
vaccinated in pregnancy more than halve the risk of developing flu in
flu vaccine reduces the risk of women having a premature baby by more than two
flu vaccination, if given to pregnant women, has been shown to reduce the
chance of babies being admitted to hospital with flu.
is important to know that you cannot catch
flu from having the flu vaccine.
Most people do not even feel any side effects following a vaccine
however for those that do you could expect the following:
the side effects are bothering you, paracetamol should help relieve some of the
your partners and family members to have a flu vaccine – either privately
through a pharmacy or through their GP if they are in a high risk group.
you have young children, click here to
see if they are eligible for a free flu vaccine. If your child is offered a flu vaccine at
school, it is encouraged that you consider that your child receives the
vaccines to protect them and to help stop the spread of infection within your
contact with family or friends who you suspect might have flu.
your hands thoroughly and regularly with warm water and soap.