Mums to be are being urged to protect their unborn baby by getting a free vaccination against the flu virus.

Flu can cause many complications during pregnancy, particularly in the latter stages, such as premature birth or low birth weight. In some cases it can lead to still birth or death in the first week of life.

Free flu vaccinations are available to all pregnant women, and Councillor Sandra Samuels, the City of Wolverhampton Council's Cabinet Member for Public Health and Wellbeing, said: "Keeping fit and healthy in pregnancy is important for your baby's growth and development.

"The immune system is naturally lower during pregnancy and if you catch the flu it can become serious very quickly, so we are encouraging all pregnant women to get a free flu vaccination this winter."

A review into maternal deaths in 2014 found that nearly one in 10 deaths of new mothers was caused by flu, while mums to be are also at higher risk of complications by infections such as pneumonia, particularly in the later stages of pregnancy.

Councillor Samuels added: "The flu vaccination is the best protection against flu. It's safe during any stage in pregnancy and doesn't carry any risks for mother or baby. 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."

Anyone who is pregnant is eligible for the flu vaccination free of charge and should speak to their midwife or GP.

Flu vaccinations are currently offered free of charge to the following 'at risk' groups:

  • those aged 65 years and over
  • those aged 6 months to under 65 with a serious medical condition, such as a chronic respiratory disease, chronic heart disease, chronic kidney disease, chronic liver disease, chronic neurological disease, diabetes, splenic dysfunction or a weakened immune system
  • pregnant women
  • all 2, 3 and 4 year olds (on 31 August, 2015)
  • all children in school years 1 and 2
  • those in long stay residential care homes
  • carers

Anyone who is not eligible for the free vaccine can still receive it for a small charge.

Vaccines are available between October 2015 and March 2016. People should contact their GP or local pharmacy now to arrange an appointment.

For more information please visit about staying well this winter, please visit Type=links;Linkid=6641;Title=NHS Choices - Stay Well This Winter;Target=_blank;.

  • released: Wednesday 28 October, 2015