The Flu Vaccine - Protection for You and Your Baby

by Your Baby Club

Winter can be a challenging time for our health. With the nights getting colder and longer, and more of us spending time huddled together indoors with little or no ventilation, viruses like flu can spread much more easily. Here are a few things to know about pregnancy and flu and what precautions you can take to protect yourself and your baby.

Pregnancy and flu

This year’s flu season might be tougher than others. As a result of COVID-19 restrictions last year, levels of flu were really low and consequently we have a lower immunity to flu than in previous years. Whilst anyone who catches flu can be seriously ill it can be worse for pregnant women and can cause harm to both mother and baby. Evidence suggests that pregnant women, especially those in the latter stages, have a higher chance of complications if they get flu. During your pregnancy, you have a lower immunity than normal leaving you less able to fight infections. Your body is also under extra pressure as it provides your baby with the nutrients it needs.

How the flu vaccine helps

The flu vaccine is the best way to protect you and your baby from the flu virus. The vaccine works by delivering a small amount of inactivated flu virus into you. Your body then responds by making antibodies to help protect you, so that if you happen to encounter flu, your immune system kicks into gear to fight off the infection quickly. It doesn’t just protect you, the antibodies that you make in response to the vaccine will be passed onto the baby in the womb and continue to protect them in their first few months of life. This is particularly important as babies younger than 6 months old who catch flu are more likely to develop complications from the infection.

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Is the flu vaccine safe?

We all want the best for our babies, and to make sure no harm comes to them, and you can rest assured that flu vaccines have an excellent safety record. All adult flu vaccines are given by injection into the muscle of the upper arm. Most side effects are mild and only last for a day or so, such as slightly raised temperature, muscle aches or a sore arm.

The flu vaccine has been given to pregnant women in many countries for decades with no issues. The type of vaccine that’s given to pregnant women contain no live flu viruses whatsoever, so it’s impossible for you to catch flu from the vaccine.

When should you get the flu vaccine?

You can take the flu vaccine at any stage of pregnancy, from your first trimester right up to your due date. It’s also safe for anyone who is breastfeeding to have the flu vaccine. Even if you feel fit and healthy, it’s really important that you get the flu vaccine now if you’re pregnant. It’s the safest way to protect you and your baby and it’s free on the NHS. If you've had COVID-19, it's safe to have the flu vaccine too. It will still be effective at helping to prevent flu.

The best time to have the flu vaccine is before flu starts spreading, but even if you find out that you’re pregnant after the flu season has started, then it’s still worth having. You can get the vaccine from your GP, pharmacist or through your maternity service too.

To check your eligibility for the flu vaccine and to find a service visit nhs.uk/wintervaccinations 

Flu vaccines and children

Children can catch and spread flu easily and it can be a very unpleasant illness for them. It can also lead to serious problems, such as bronchitis and pneumonia.

Even if they don't get it too badly themselves, children can easily spread it to other people, especially family members, and some of them will be those who may be more likely to become seriously unwell if they catch the flu, including elderly people, babies and those with chronic health conditions.

That’s why the children’s nasal spray flu vaccine is offered to children every year. It’s a quick and simple nasal spray, and is completely free on the NHS for children aged 2 or 3 (as at 31 August) to school children from reception up to year 11.

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Don’t forget about the COVID-19 vaccine

If you’re pregnant then it is equally important to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Pregnant women are more likely to get seriously ill from COVID-19 and we know that vaccines are safe for them and make a huge difference – in fact no pregnant woman who has had both doses of the vaccine has required hospitalisation with COVID-19.

If you haven’t had the COVID-19 vaccine yet, then it might be a good time to get it done. The first dose of the vaccine offers a high level of protection, but to get maximum protection then you need both doses.

Your midwives are here to help

Winter can be a worrying time for our health and wellbeing. That’s why it’s so important for pregnant women to stay safe and well this winter.

If you’re pregnant, it’s important to continue to attend your antenatal appointments. Speaking to your midwife or maternity team regularly can ensure that you have a safe and healthy pregnancy. The NHS is doing everything to keep you and your baby safe, so please do continue to seek advice at every stage of your pregnancy. If you have an appointment, need care or you’re worried about your health or the health of your unborn baby, please make sure you contact your local team. They’re there to help you.

Want to know more?

If you want to find out more about getting the flu vaccine while pregnant, ask your GP surgery or any other healthcare professional any questions you have about vaccines. They’re knowledgeable and experienced and can answer any doubts that you may have and are always the best people to talk to. You can also find out more about vaccines, check your eligibility for the flu vaccine and find a service on the NHS website. Visit nhs.uk/wintervaccinations


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Your Baby Club

Your Baby Club HQ
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Articles on YourBabyClub.co.uk are a mixture of informative pieces, anecdotal accounts and professional advice from our panel of Bloggers, Writers and Experts. The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official view of Your Baby Club UK

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