Influenza is a serious illness. It is a highly contagious respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus. It is mainly spread from person to person through droplets from an infected person when they cough or sneeze.

Influenza can be life threatening for a pregnant woman or a newborn baby.

Being healthy is an advantage but changes in immunity and heart/lung functions during pregnancy make it more likely to become very ill during pregnancy. This virus can increase the chance for premature labour and delivery.

Having a flu shot is the best method of protecting yourself against the flu and it will also protect your baby after birth. Flu shots are safe for both mother and baby and can be given at any stage of the pregnancy. Antibodies created in response to the flu vaccine pass from you to your baby, protecting baby from the flu in the first crucial months of life.

There is no evidence of increased risk of problems for mother or baby by having a flu shot. It is highly recommended to have this vaccination early.

Talk with your GP about obtaining a free flu shot. The time of the year influences the availability of the vaccine.

The flu shot cannot give you the flu although you may notice some symptoms. This relates to the vaccine generating an immune response. This is how a vaccine works, training the immune system to recognise parts of the flu virus. There is no live virus in the flu shot.

If you notice flu-like symptoms as fever, a cough, aching body, headaches and fatigue, whether pregnant or not, call your doctor immediately. You will receive appropriate advice regarding treatments especially to use during pregnancy.

As pregnant women are at high risk of serious flu complications, it is recommended to be treated quickly with antiviral medicines. These work best when taken early, better within 48 hours of the symptoms starting.

If you experience a fever, this can be harmful to the baby. Paracetamol may reduce a fever but you must call your doctor immediately.