Influenza, a potentially deadly disease, is estimated to result in between 1,500 and 3,500 deaths and more than 18,000 hospitalisations every year in Australia (1). When it comes to pregnant women, the risk of hospitalisation with H1N1 influenza as compared with non-pregnant women increases five times (2).
During pregnancy, the immune system is gravely repressed, leading to increased chances of one getting the flu. Therefore, pregnant women are at greater risk of having austere complications from the virus as influenza infection increases the risk of premature birth, sub-optimal foetal growth and stillbirth. Fortunately, maternal flu vaccination offers protection against these complications (3,4,5), and pregnant women are eligible for free vaccination under the National Immunisation Program. Pregnant women are advised to seek the vaccination, especially if they fall under the category of more than one at-risk group.
There is no doubt regarding the safety of the influenza vaccination for pregnant women, including in the first trimester. A recent study (4) showed that the influenza vaccine is not associated with an increased risk of foetal death; instead, it protects against this. A pregnant woman who has been vaccinated has a 70% reduced risk of getting influenza. The risk of foetal death is nearly doubled for women with confirmed influenza. It was found that there were 16 foetal deaths among the 2,278 pregnant women who were diagnosed with influenza. Vaccination against flu in pregnant women also protects the baby during the first vulnerable months of life.