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Protect your unborn baby this winter with a free flu jab

Health experts are urging pregnant women to get their free vaccination before the flu virus starts circulating this winter.

South East Staffordshire and Seisdon Peninsula Clinical Commissioning Group is warning that flu can cause many complications during pregnancy, particularly in the later stages, such as premature births or low birth weights. In some cases, it can lead to stillbirth or even death in the first week of life.

However, getting your free flu vaccination can help prevent difficulties and keep mother and baby safe.

Keeping fit and healthy in pregnancy is important for your baby’s growth and development, but your immune system whilst you are pregnant is naturally lower and if you catch the flu virus it can become serious very quickly.

A review into maternal deaths in 2014 showed that nearly one in 10 deaths of new mothers was caused by flu. More than half of these could have been prevented by the flu vaccination. Although maternal deaths are rare in the UK you are at higher risk of complications by infections such as pneumonia - particularly in the later stages of pregnancy.

Dr John James, Clinical Chair of South East Staffordshire and Seisdon Peninsula CCG, said: “I would urge anyone who is pregnant to get the flu vaccination as soon as possible. During pregnancy a woman’s immune system is naturally lower to ensure that the pregnancy is successful. As a result, pregnant women are less able to fight off infections and therefore more likely to be seriously ill if they contract the flu virus.

“The flu vaccination is the best protection against flu. It’s safe during any stage in pregnancy, from the first few weeks through to the woman’s due date. Women who have had the flu vaccine while pregnant also pass some protection on to their babies, which lasts for the first few months of their lives.”

Even if you’ve had the flu vaccination before it’s important to get it again because the type of virus in circulation changes every year, so the vaccine changes too. If you are towards the end of your pregnancy you can also have the whooping cough vaccination at the same time.

Ask your midwife, GP or pharmacist about your free flu vaccination now. It’s free because you need it.

For more information visit www.nhs.uk/staywell or view patient leaflets on our Stay Well webpage.

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