Health officials in Cwm Taf University Health Board and across Wales have stressed the real dangers of flu to pregnant women, and are reminding mums-to-be to protect themselves and their unborn baby against flu.
A pregnant woman who catches flu is at increased risk of serious illness, and is more likely to have a low birth weight baby or for her baby to be born prematurely. It can even lead to her baby dying in the first week of life.
Flu vaccine can be safely given during pregnancy, so health officials are encouraging pregnant women to have their free flu vaccine and help protect themselves and their unborn baby.
Helen Rogers, Director for the Royal College of Midwives in Wales, said: “I urge pregnant women to get protected against the flu virus. This is crucial now we are heading into the flu season, and pregnant women often don’t understand the risk of flu and its complications, not only to themselves but also to their unborn baby. No mother should take that risk: please ask your midwife or GP about this and stay safe this winter.”
Last year 1,099 pregnant women living in Rhondda Cynon Taf and Merthyr Tydfil received the flu vaccine.
Rachel Fielding, head of midwifery at Cwm Taf University Health Board has echoed the Royal College of Midwives plea saying: “I cannot emphasise enough how important it is for all pregnant women to protect themselves against flu which can be such a serious illness during pregnancy. Each year, a number of otherwise healthy pregnant women who have not received the vaccine have died, leading to such devastating consequences for their family.
“We want to ensure all pregnant women in Cwm Taf are given the protection they deserve by having the flu vaccine in order to keep them safe and well. Your community midwife will be able to answer any questions you might have and advise where you can get the vaccine, the earlier in pregnancy the better. We also encourage all pregnant women to have the Whooping Cough vaccine from 28 weeks of pregnancy too.”
Women can have the flu vaccination at any stage in their pregnancy, but the sooner the better. It is safe to have during pregnancy and also 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 any 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.
All children aged two and three years old on 31 August 2015, and children in reception class, year one and year two in school are also being offered protection with a nasal spray flu vaccine. The two and three year olds will have their nasal spray vaccine at their GP surgery and children in reception class, year one and year two (generally aged 4 - 6 years old) will be offered the their nasal spray vaccine at school.
Other illnesses such as whooping cough are also a threat to new born babies, that’s why the whooping cough vaccine is also recommended in pregnancy. Pregnant women are advised to ask their GP or midwife for further information.