Figures from last winter show that just 39.5% of pregnant women in the East Midlands were vaccinated again seasonal flu.
Pregnant women who catch flu, in particular H1N1, are at increased risk of serious complications such as bronchitis and pneumonia. H1N1 infection in the mother affects the baby too. By not having the vaccine, mothers could put the baby at risk of premature or still birth.
Carole Posaner, Maternity Matron at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust (NUH), said: “Flu can cause serious illness in pregnant women and in the most severe cases can put the lives of expectant mums and their unborn babies at risk. This is because the woman’s body and immune system is adapting to accommodate the growing baby and less able to fight off the flu virus. Last winter we saw the devastating effects flu in pregnancy can have and this can be prevented by having the free vaccine at your local GP surgery.”
Last winter, 23 patients were admitted to critical care at NUH suffering from seasonal flu – five of these were pregnant women.
Carole added: “When you are pregnant with your child you want to do what is right for your baby and some mothers-to-be worry about the vaccine. It is safe for mother and baby and can be given at any stage of pregnancy, and the earlier you have the vaccine the better as it means you will be protected for the whole winter. The vaccine may also give your unborn baby some protection against flu during the first six months of life.
“In addition, many pregnant mothers already have children at home and cannot afford to fall ill. So getting the jab not only protects the mother and unborn baby, but also their loved ones.”
There are four groups of people most at risk from flu:
- pregnant women
- people with long-erm conditions
- those over 65 years.
There are additional ways people can protect themselves and those around them. Good hand hygiene – the ‘catch it, bin it, kill it’ technique – reduces the spread of germs. This means carrying tissues, covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue, disposing of the tissue after one use, and cleaning hands as soon as possible with soap and water or an alcohol hand gel.
NUH is supporting an East Midlands-wide NHS campaign to encourage people at risk of flu to get protected and have the vaccine. Click here to find out more.