Because the flu or influenza is a serious illness, your baby is at risk! Influenza, otherwise known as flu, is an infectious disease that could cause severe complications to pregnant women. Whether you have a healthy or risky pregnancy, contracting influenza during this time might have detrimental health implications. Possible complications include premature labour, miscarriage and the need for urgent caesarean delivery.
If you contract flu while pregnant, the chances of hospitalisation are high. In the worst-case scenario, women might lose their life to the infection. Although pregnant women are at greater risk of developing these complications, non-pregnant women should also contact their doctors as soon as possible, as treatment with antiviral medication may be indicated.
Flu vaccination is safe and free for pregnant women.
The best way to protect your life and your baby is by participating in seasonal flu vaccination. Having a flu shot at any point in the pregnancy is safe. After vaccination, your body will develop antibodies that will help guard you and your baby against the flu infection for up to six months after birth. This is vital, considering that children below six months cannot receive the influenza vaccination. Therefore, the only way to protect infants is by vaccinating the mother during pregnancy.
Infants less than six months are ten times more susceptible to contracting flu than older children. Babies tend to develop severe complications following influenza infection, including:
Influenza or flu shot is free for pregnant women under the National Immunisation Program. Pregnant women are, therefore, advised to get the shot. Consult a doctor to find out how to get your safe and free flu jab today.
What measures can pregnant women take to avoid getting the flu?
Regardless of whether you get the flu vaccination at work or in the community, flu vaccination is an effective way of preventing people from becoming infected with the illness. This is because the less the virus is circulating in the community or at work, the safer the members are. Therefore, having the flu vaccination at work or at your medical centre is good for you and other people within the locality. Besides vaccination, other measures can reduce the risk of contracting the flu:
- Wash your hands often, especially after sneezing, blowing your nose or coughing
- Cover your mouth when sneezing or coughing, and use disposable tissues, which you should dispose of immediately after use
- Avoid crowded places, especially those where people might be down with flu
- Keep away from people who are sick with influenza
When can a pregnant woman be vaccinated against the Flu?
The flu vaccine can protect anyone planning to conceive or one who is at any stage of the pregnancy, regardless of their due date. The number of women opting for flu vaccination is increasing. In addition, the side effects of the vaccination are minimal.
How effective is the flu shot?
The Flu vaccine doesn't provide complete protection. The influenza vaccine triggers the body's defence mechanism to create antibodies. The antibodies will fight flu-causing agents if they are exposed to them later.
The flu jab has an average efficacy of 40%, meaning that it prevents illness 40% of the time. Since it was first recorded in 2003, effectiveness has fluctuated yearly, going as low as 10% in 2004-05 and reaching a pinnacle of 60% in 2010-2011.
What are the side effects of the flu vaccine?
The side effects resulting from flu shots are usually mild. Only ten per cent of the vaccine's recipients experience side effects. The expected effects are muscle aches, low-grade fever, swelling at the injection site, and local redness. The influenza vaccine does not contain any whole virus. It cannot make you sick.
If I had a flu vaccination last winter, do I require another flu shot now?
Yes. The flu virus mutates very quickly. A new season flu vaccine is developed every year. Its purpose is to protect against the most dangerous strains (typically Type A and B), especially those expected during that season.
How to manage influenza with a baby in the house
First, identify the signs and symptoms of flu infection.
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Sore throat
- Flu infection may last between five and seven days. Flu is not a cold!
I am pregnant. What if I get influenza?
- Control your temperature (Please seek medical advice before using any medication)
- Keep breastfeeding.
- Consult your physician if the symptoms are evident
- Your doctor will advise you on the best treatment option.
What if a family member gets the flu?
- Make sure you wash your hands before holding your baby
- Educate your family members
- Keep the sick person away from the baby if possible.
What if my baby gets the flu?
- Continue breastfeeding if you can
- Seek urgent medical attention
- Keep your child away from other healthy people, especially infants and expectant mothers.
Immunise Australia Program
National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance