Ask The Expert: I'm pregnant – should I still get the flu vaccine and if so, why?
Q: I'M PREGNANT and have been offered a flu vaccination but I'm worried it could harm my baby or make me ill. I'm young, fit and healthy – is there any need for me to be vaccinated against flu or anything else while I'm pregnant?
A: Clare Livingstone, professional policy adviser at the Royal College of Midwives, says: "Public health departments are strongly urging all pregnant women to be vaccinated, and with very good reason: They are more susceptible to the flu infection, even when young and healthy.
"Immunity is lower in pregnancy and this means not only are pregnant women more likely to catch flu, they are also known to become more unwell with it when they do."
"Catching flu in pregnancy can cause serious complications for the woman, increase the risk of premature birth, and cause major health problems for a newborn baby. Some pregnant women have died as a result of catching flu, and a vaccination is the most effective way to prevent it – and it can be given at any stage of the pregnancy.
"Also, babies receive some passive immunity from their mother's vaccination, which provides protective cover during the first few months of life."
"Midwives know the dangers of flu. Now winter's here, we'll be reminding pregnant women at their antenatal checks to get their vaccines as soon as possible. The flu vaccine given to pregnant women isn't live and is completely safe. Only some people will experience mild side-effects following the injection, if any, such as pain, swelling and redness at the site of the injection, or (very rarely) mild flu-like symptoms.
"It's very important that women receive the vaccine with each pregnancy, as every year it's carefully analysed and modified, to match the latest strains circulating during the new flu season.
"A whooping cough vaccination is also routinely offered to pregnant women and should ideally be given between 16 and 32 weeks, but still provides some protection when given right up until labour. This vaccine is also vitally important in giving immunity to babies before they're able to receive their own vaccination.
"Women shouldn't delay asking for either or both of these vaccines. They are entitled to time off from work to attend these essential appointments and the vaccines are free. Your midwife will be able to advise you on how and where to make the appointments."