Midwives and healthcare professionals in north Cumbria are advising pregnant women - or those considering pregnancy - to get their COVID and flu vaccines.

Pregnant women who are not vaccinated could face serious complications should they contract either virus. 

For pregnant women with symptoms of COVID-19, it is twice as likely that their baby will be born early, exposing the baby to the risk of prematurity. Recent studies have also found that pregnant women who tested positive for COVID-19 at the time of birth were more likely to develop pre-eclampsia, need an emergency caesarean and had higher rates of stillbirth; however, the actual increases remain low.

Amanda Kennett, Associate Director of Midwifery for North Cumbria Integrated Care, said: “Our main aim is to keep the women and babies we care for safe, the evidence shows that having the COVID-19 vaccine is the best way to keep both women and babies protected against COVID-19. If you have questions, please talk to your midwife or GP, we are here to help.”  

Health bosses in the region are also encouraging women who are planning a pregnancy, are in the immediate postnatal period or breastfeeding to also have their vaccine as soon as possible. There is no evidence linked to having the jab and fertility and there is no reason to stop breastfeeding in order to have the vaccine.  

Rachel Fulton, Matron for maternity services at NCIC said:  “We know that women only want the best for their babies, and we want to support them in making these decisions. We offer pregnant women lots of vaccines to protect them and their babies during the course of pregnancy. The COVID-19 vaccine is no different, vaccines save lives, the COVID-19 jab can keep you, your baby and your loved ones, safe and out of hospital.” 

Ottilie Fry is currently 36 weeks pregnant and explains why she decided to have her COVID-19 vaccines. Ottilie said:

“I was really unsure what to do regarding the vaccine in the beginning, but after doing some reading around the subject and talking to my midwife, I decided to go ahead and have the vaccine. I already have a small child who attends nursery and so I decided my risk of exposure to COVID-19 was great enough to take steps to protect myself and my unborn baby from the virus. I have spoken to other pregnant friends who also decided to have the vaccine and felt assured this was the right step for me. I had my jab at the local pharmacy and felt a mild ache after my first jab and then completely fine after the second.”

Pregnant women should also get their flu vaccine.

In pregnancy women are more susceptible to flu because their immune systems are naturally weaker and pregnant women who get the fly may be less able to fight off infections, increasing the risk of becoming ill. The flu jab is the safest way to protect mums and babies against flu and is available at any stage of pregnancy.

Women who have had the flu vaccine while pregnant also pass some protection on to their babies, which lasts for the first few months of their lives. By choosing to get the flu jab it can also help reduce their risk of miscarriage, premature birth, low birth weight and stillbirth.

Amanda added: “It's recommended that all pregnant women have the flu vaccine, whatever stage of pregnancy they're at. There is good evidence that pregnant women have a higher chance of developing complications if they get flu, particularly in the later stages of pregnancy which is why I would urge any mums to be to take up the offer of getting their free flu jab.”

Any pregnant women who have questions or concerns about the vaccine can speak to their GP, midwife or obstetrician to get more information and advice.