Make sure you stay flu free this winter

Seasonal flu and illnesses: protect yourself and your baby.

Pregnant woman talking to nurse about vaccination.

By Jules Robertson, Tommy’s midwife

Autumn leaves, snuggly jumpers, and the new series of Strictly  – autumn brings so many treats! Unfortunately, the return of the colder months also brings an increase in the incidences of flu and other bugs. 

If you’re pregnant this winter, you will be offered a whooping cough and flu vaccination to keep your baby safe during pregnancy and for a short while after they are born. 

The flu vaccine

We would urge you to take the flu vaccine when it's offered. Immunisation statistics published last week by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) show an increase in flu vaccination uptake in pregnant women, which is great news.

Why do I need to be vaccinated?

The reason we welcome this increase, as do our colleagues at the Royal College of Midwives, is because there is evidence that pregnant women can be more at risk of developing complications if they get flu during pregnancy. To cut this risk for you and your baby’s health, pregnant women are offered a free flu jab, usually sometime between September and February.

When should I be vaccinated?

Research shows that the flu vaccine is safe from the first few weeks of pregnancy right up to your due date.

Whooping cough vaccine

This illness can be very severe, especially in very young babies, and it can lead to hospitalisation and even death. The number of cases of whooping cough in the UK has risen among babies who are too young to have had their vaccinations. Because of this, the Department of Health has developed a vaccine for pregnant women to protect their babies against this illness until the babies can be immunised themselves.

Comprehensive research into both  vaccines has shown that they have been safely used for several years with no evidence of ill-effects for pregnant women or their babies. The vaccines are not ‘live’ so cannot cause disease, but act by stimulating your body’s immune system to make antibodies to attack the virus or bacteria causing infection.

Despite this, data from Public Health England shows that for the year to March 2015, only 56.4% of pregnant women took up the whooping cough vaccine – so this is less encouraging. 

When should I be vaccinated?

You will be offered a whooping cough vaccination between 28 and 38 weeks (ideally between 28 and 32 weeks) of pregnancy to boost your levels of antibodies. These antibodies will then be passed on to your baby for protection until they get their first vaccinations at two months old.

The flu vaccine can be given at any time but shouldn’t be delayed to have with the pertussis vaccine in later pregnancy – particularly in winter months.

Read more about vaccinations in pregnancy

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