Doctors and midwives are calling on all pregnant women living in Bath, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire to have a free flu vaccine.

Women’s immune systems are naturally weakened during pregnancy and there is a higher risk of developing complications from flu, such as bronchitis and pneumonia. There is also an increased risk of miscarriage or the baby being born prematurely or with a low birth weight.

Studies have shown the vaccine is safe to give at any stage of pregnancy.  Before the flu virus starts circulating, now is the ideal time for pregnant women, to have the flu vaccination, which is available from their GP, maternity service provider or pharmacy.

Flu is a highly infectious disease. It is caused by viruses that are spread from person to person. The viruses are constantly changing and this is one of the main reasons why pregnant women should be vaccinated during every pregnancy. The symptoms, that come on very quickly, include fever, chills, headaches, aches and pains in the joints and muscles, and extreme tiredness.  The best way to avoid getting the flu is by having the vaccination. Doing so reduces the risk of developing the illness significantly.

Julie Hughes, head of Public Health for Bath, Gloucestershire, Swindon and Wiltshire said: “It’s important that all pregnant women protect themselves and their unborn baby by having the vaccination. Flu is a serious risk to both the mother and unborn baby. Pregnant women have an increased risk of developing complications from flu. The vaccine can be given at any stage of pregnancy and is safe for mother and baby. So if you are pregnant and haven’t yet had your vaccine, please speak with your GP/maternity service provider / local pharmacy as soon as possible. The vaccine is free and will offer protection to you and your baby.”

Bath mother Ayisha Furnell said: “I’m 15 weeks pregnant and was offered the vaccination when I went to the RUH for a routine scan. I’m obvious keen to protect myself and my baby, so I had no reservations about having the jab there and then.“

Strains of the flu virus change every year, and for that reason it’s important to have the vaccine in every pregnancy.  Even if someone thinks they’ve already had the flu, they should still have the vaccine, as there is more than one type of flu virus.

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