23 May 2015

With the weather cooling down, NSW Health is reminding pregnant women about the importance of getting their influenza vaccination before the full force of winter hits.

Dr Vicky Sheppeard, Director of Communicable Diseases Branch at NSW Health, said influenza can be dangerous for pregnant women.

“Data from the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS), which is surveying new mums as part of the FluMum study, shows that the uptake of influenza vaccination has improved from about one in five pregnant women (23 per cent) in 2013 to almost one in three (32 per cent) in 2014,” she said.

“However, that is only 32 per cent of pregnant women in NSW being vaccinated for the flu compared with about 70 per cent of people aged 65 years and older across the state.

“Women in their second and third trimester of pregnancy in particular, are at greater risk of very severe illness which can put both mother and baby at risk.

“Pregnant women who get influenza are at greater risk of developing serious complications, such as pneumonia, which may result in their hospitalisation.

“The risk of premature labour and delivery is also increased in pregnant women with influenza.

“Influenza vaccines are not available for children less than six months of age so protection can only be achieved by vaccinating a mother during pregnancy.

“Children born to vaccinated mothers also have a reduced risk of contracting influenza in the first six months of life.

“The influenza vaccine can be given at any stage of pregnancy. It’s safe and free for pregnant women so speak to your GP today.”

There are some simple precautions which pregnant women can take to minimise the risk of developing influenza including:

  • Wash your hands regularly, cover coughs and sneezes. Encourage others to do so as well.
  • Ask sick people to keep away until they are well
  • If you start to feel sick, call your doctor straight away. Early treatment of flu can help prevent complications
  • Treat fever straight away. Fever can harm your unborn baby

For more information on protecting yourself from influenza during pregnancy please go to Pregnant women and influenza.

The National Seasonal Influenza Program for 2015 commenced on 20 April 2015.

The annual seasonal influenza vaccination is recommended for any person aged six months or older.