Expert / 28 November, 2017 / Dr Jinesh Mehta
The lergy. It’s definitely that time of year! I don’t know about you, but I’ve already been struck down with two viruses back to back; a cold virus, and the lovely norovirus only a week after. Being 7 weeks pregnant at the time, the norovirus landed me in hospital on a drip, which was quite a scare. Suddenly you take for granted the painkillers you could pop without a care pre-pregnancy! I’m now 10 weeks along, and I really don’t want to add influenza to my list of things I’ve been up to this winter, so I was keen to know when would be safe to get the jab, and what to expect. Dr Jinesh Mehta from GPDQ, tell us everything we need to know. I’ve booked my appointment with my local GP!
What is flu (influenza)?
Flu is a set of symptoms caused by being infected by viruses that are spread from person to person through tiny droplets of saliva when coughing or sneezing. The infection is carried in the windpipe and lungs, where it can become serious enough to cause pneumonia and other serious complications such as meningitis, miscarriage, premature birth or even result in a small underweight baby.
When an infected person coughs or sneezes, they spread the flu virus in tiny droplets of saliva over a wide area. We are always taught at school to prevent spread of infections by covering our mouths when coughing or sneezing and by washing our hands. However, the best way to help avoid catching and spreading flu is by having the vaccination in September before the flu season starts.
I’m pregnant, should I get the flu vaccination?
Yes. In pregnancy the natural defences that your body uses to fight off infection is slightly weakened. This means that you have a higher chance of getting serious complications and being admitted to hospital if you catch the flu. In some cases it can lead to death. The flu vaccine is safe in pregnancy and does not give you the flu itself. The benefits of the vaccination are not just limited to you. Your baby also benefits as it will be protected through the transferred immunity that it gets from you for the first few months of its life.
Do I need the vaccine if I have had it before?
Every year the viruses that can cause the flu can change and as a result the World Health Organisation (WHO) announces which strains of the flu they will be making vaccines for annually. For this reason, you cannot be certain that your previous vaccinations provide you with protection. It is recommended that you are vaccinated in every pregnancy.
What should I do if I have missed the vaccination in September?
Don’t worry if you find out that you are pregnant later in the flu season. Vaccination available from September through to February so you can still have it and protect yourself and your baby.
Are there any side effects from the flu vaccine?
The vaccine does not contain the viruses that cause the flu, so it cannot cause the infection in you or your baby. With any vaccination there is a very small chance that you may have some mild side effects such as redness or tenderness at the injection site. Fever, reduced appetite, aching muscles and headaches are also possible, but tend to last no more than a couple of days.
How can I get the flu vaccination?
The vaccine is available from GPs and your midwife, pharmacist or professionals in your antenatal clinics may also offer it. You can have the flu vaccination at the same time as your whooping vaccination if the timing is appropriate. The flu vaccine is free for pregnant women.
Dr Jinesh Mehta, GPDQ
Dr Mehta is a GP with the UK’s first on-demand app for GP home visits. He has worked as a physician, teacher, partner and leader, both within the NHS and the private sector. He has spent over 11 years refining a patient centred approach to provide holistic essential, general and specialist medical services.