15 April 2013

NSW Health is reminding pregnant women to get their influenza shot before the full force of winter hits.

NSW Kids and Families Senior Clinical Advisor Obstetrics, Associate Professor Michael Nicholl said women in their second and third trimester of pregnancy are at greater risk of very severe illness from influenza.

“Pregnancy takes its toll on a pregnant woman’s respiratory and immune systems, so even healthy women with an uncomplicated pregnancy can develop life-threatening influenza,” Associate Professor Nicholl said.

“Having a vaccination during pregnancy has shown to benefit mum and baby, with protective antibodies being transferred from mum, protecting the baby for up to six months.”

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.

“The risk of premature labour and delivery is also increased in pregnant women with influenza,” Associate Professor Nicholl said.

To date, rates of influenza vaccination in pregnant women have been low.

Influenza vaccine is free for pregnant women from your GP and can be safely given to women planning to have a baby or at any stage during pregnancy irrespective of delivery date.

Associate Professor Nicholl said influenza vaccinations are not the only way that pregnant women can lower the risk of getting sick.

“Firstly, you should limit your contact with others who are sick,” Associate Professor Nicholl said.

“If you do get sick, you should cover your mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing and dispose of the tissue immediately. If a tissue is not available then cough into your elbow as well as washing your hands regularly, especially after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose.”

If you are pregnant and develop symptoms of influenza you should contact your doctor as soon as possible, as treatment with antiviral medication may be advised.

Doctors and pregnant women can find comprehensive information about vaccination on the NSW Health website: http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/Influenza/Pages/influenza_and_pregnancy.aspx