Pregnant women in Ayrshire and Arran are being urged to protect themselves against flu by getting the free flu vaccine.
The call comes after recent figures show that over half (53 per cent) are still to be vaccinated.
Statistics highlight that flu was the cause of death among one in 11 women who died during, or shortly after, pregnancy. Pregnant women who contract flu are also five times more likely to have a stillborn baby, or for the baby to die in the first week following birth.
The flu vaccine offered this season is a good match for the circulating strains being detected and is expected to provide good levels of protection. Women can have the flu vaccination at any stage of their pregnancy and evidence shows that the vaccine can help to protect the baby for up to three months after birth.
Director of the Royal College of Midwives Scotland, Gillian Smith said: “It has now become critical we stress to pregnant women that flu is a really serious illness – it is not just a bad cold. It can have a serious impact on those expecting a baby. You could experience premature labour, stillbirth, or a miscarriage but also you could become seriously ill yourself, so we are encouraging all pregnant ladies to get the vaccination.
“If you’ve been pregnant before, remember that a healthy and flu-free pregnancy last time is no guarantee that you won’t catch flu this time. To make sure you get the maximum protection against the strains of flu circulating, you need to get vaccinated again.
“The flu vaccine is free to all expectant mothers in Scotland, is safe to have at any time during pregnancy, and it only takes a few minutes. Getting immunised against flu offers the best protection against the virus. It takes about 10 days to be protected after getting the vaccine, so pregnant women are advised to get the vaccination as soon as possible.
Speaking of her own experience as a pregnant woman, 28-year old Katrina Hood said: “I am a first time mum, and throughout my pregnancy the health of my baby remained top-of-mind. Like every expectant mum, I wanted to protect my unborn child from illness and I knew flu could hit hard and fast.
“I found out that pregnant women are more likely to suffer serious complications if they catch flu because of changes to the immune system during pregnancy, so I prioritised visiting my GP to get vaccinated.
“The vaccine was quick and painless and protected me from flu for up to a year and also protected my baby girl for the first three months after the birth.”
Pregnant women can contact their midwife or GP practice to ask any questions about the flu vaccine, or to book an appointment.
The seasonal flu vaccination is being administered by GP practices until the end of March, 2016 as part of a national programme which will see over two million people offered the vaccination this winter.
People with underlying health conditions such as asthma or diabetes, pregnant women, carers, and those aged 65 and over are most at risk from flu and are being encouraged to get the vaccine as soon as possible.
If you would like to find out more information about the flu vaccine, contact NHS Inform on 0800 22 44 88 or log on to www.immunisationscotland.org.uk/flu