Health professionals are urging pregnant women across north Cumbria to protect themselves and their unborn child against flu this winter.

The free flu vaccination is available from their GP, maternity service provider or pharmacy and it’s important that mothers-to-be protect themselves and their baby as soon as possible.

The best time to have it is now – before flu starts circulating.

Flu can make otherwise healthy people feel very poorly for up to a fortnight. There is also strong evidence that pregnant women have an increased risk of developing complications if they get flu which can be potentially harmful to mother and the unborn baby. These risks include bronchitis, pneumonia and increased risk of miscarriage, or the baby being born prematurely or with a low birthweight.

Denise Lightfoot, consultant midwife at North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust (NCIC), said:

“All pregnant women should make every effort to have the flu vaccination during their pregnancy – especially now with Coronavirus also circulating. It’s important to recognise that significant risks exist to both mother-to-be and unborn child if the virus is contracted during pregnancy. Complications are reduced by having a simple vaccination.

“Flu is highly infectious and easily spread from person to person. The symptoms, which can come on very quickly, included fever, chills, headaches, aches and pains in the joints and muscles and extreme tiredness. There is good evidence that pregnant women have a higher chance of developing complications if they get flu, particularly in the later stages of pregnancy which is why I would urge all pregnant woman to take up the offer of getting their free flu jab.”

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and Royal College of Midwives (RCM) say the free vaccination is particularly important this year because of Covid-19.

"Flu can be very serious during pregnancy for both mothers-to-be and their babies and leaves women at higher risk of complications and, in some cases, can develop into pneumonia," says Gill Walton, chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives (RCM).

The flu vaccination is not harmful and offers the best protection – studies show that the vaccine is safe during any stage of pregnancy, from the first few weeks right up to the expected due date; if the flu vaccination is taken during pregnancy some protection is also passed on to the baby, which lasts for the first few months of life.

The RCM is also urging all midwives and maternity support workers to get vaccinated - to help protect the families they care for