Flu Vaccine: Advice For Hapū Māmā & Breastfeeding Māmā

This winter the risk of catching the flu is increased, with New Zealand no longer in lockdown and, with international borders opening it’s expected that we will see new strains of flu spreading in our communities.

The flu can lead to pneumonia, and in severe cases means a hospital stay – particularly if you’re hapū / pregnant, older, a young child or have an ongoing medical condition.

We spoke with Dr Emma Best, Paediatrician and Specialist in infectious Diseases at the University of Auckland Immunisation Advisory Centre, about the flu vaccination, and whether it’s safe for hapū māmā and breastfeeding māmā.

According to Doctor Best, “it is strongly recommended that hapū māmā get the influenza vaccine during pregnancy to protect themselves and their newborn baby. It is a safe and effective vaccine for pregnant women and has benefits to protect hapū mums as well as their newborns from serious ‘flu.”

The flu vaccine works by helping your own immune system to make protective proteins (antibodies) that can fight off the virus. It doesn’t cross the placenta into your pēpi and won’t give you the flu.

An added benefit to getting the flu vaccine while pregnant is that antibodies your body makes from the flu jab are shared with your pēpi / baby, so when they’re born, they have some protection against the flu for the first few months of their life.

The flu vaccine is free if you’re pregnant and can be easily booked through your GP or usual healthcare provider, and at most pharmacies. Walk-in vaccination options can be found here.

The flu vaccine is also safe for breastfeeding māmā. Dr Best advises that the vaccine “can be given safely if you are breastfeeding to keep mums well and prevent mums from getting ‘flu which would then pass onto the baby.”

 

The flu virus affects your whole body. Symptoms come on suddenly and can include

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Muscle aches
  • Runny nose
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath, and
  • Stomach upsets.
Flu vaccinations are free for people aged 5-12, 65 and over, Māori and Pacific people aged 55 and over, anyone who is hapū, people with underlying health issues like asthma, diabetes, and heart disease, and people with serious mental health or addiction needs.

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