PUBLIC Health Wales is urging all pregnant women to have their free flu vaccine as research shows they are seven times more likely to die from flu than a woman who is not pregnant.

A woman who catches flu during pregnancy is at higher risk of delivering her baby early and the risk of stillbirth is also increased.

The flu vaccine is the most effective way to prevent flu and offers protection to both the mum-to-be and her unborn baby. The NHS flu vaccine is available free to all pregnant women in Wales at their GP surgery or community pharmacy.

The flu vaccine is safe during all stages of pregnancy, and not only helps protect women against catching flu, but can also help protect their unborn child for up to six months after birth.

Anne McGowan, nurse consultant at Public Health Wales, said: "It’s really important for pregnant women to ensure they are protected against flu. Expectant mothers do not have the same ability as other healthy people to fight viruses such as flu, which is an illness that can be devastating for the woman and her unborn baby.

"If a pregnant woman catches flu it can cause severe complications to mother and baby; one quick, simple, vaccination will help to protect her and will also give added protection to her baby during their first months of life."

Annual flu vaccination is the best protection against catching or spreading flu, a potentially life-threatening infection. Last year, almost three-quarters of pregnant women protected themselves with the flu vaccine.

Hannah Jones a Physiotherapist at Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board chose to have her flu jab when she was 34 weeks pregnant.

"I think it’s very important to protect me, my fellow patients and also my unborn child from flu and I realise the importance of the protection it gives after my baby is born," she said.

"I urge any woman who is pregnant, at any stage of her pregnancy, to consider having this vaccination which is available for free from your GP practice or local pharmacy."