Pregnant women are being urged to have a flu vaccination as figures from last winter show that fewer than a quarter of mothers-to-be in the Bradford district had the potentially life-saving jab.

During the 2011-12 flu season 5,500 pregnant women registered with a GP practice in Bradford and Airedale and only 23 per cent had the flu jab.

Pregnant women who catch flu are at increased risk of serious complications such as bronchitis and pneumonia. By not having the vaccine, mothers could put their baby at risk of premature or still birth.

Linda Scott, immunisation and vaccination lead at NHS Airedale, Bradford and Leeds, said: “Flu can cause serious illness in pregnant women and in the most severe cases can put the lives of expectant mums and their unborn babies at risk.

“This is because the woman’s body and immune system is adapting to accommodate the growing baby and is therefore less able to fight off the flu virus.

“When you are pregnant with your child you want to do what is right for your baby and some mothers-to-be worry about the vaccine. It is safe for mother and baby and can be given at any stage of pregnancy. In fact, having a flu jab while pregnant will also automatically protect your baby against this dangerous illness because the antibodies you develop are passed to your baby and will last during the first few months of your baby’s life.

“In addition, many pregnant mothers already have children at home and with a family to look after cannot afford to fall ill. So getting the jab not only protects the mother and unborn baby, but also their loved ones too.”

This year, pregnant women are also being urged to get the whooping cough vaccination to give their baby the best protection against whooping cough, following a national outbreak of the disease, as very young babies are at the greatest risk of serious complications. Women who are 28 weeks pregnant or more should contact their GP practice to get vaccinated, or speak to their midwife.

People with long-term health conditions, their carers and people aged 65 years or more are also urged to get their flu jab. Good hand hygiene can reduce the risk of catching flu with the ‘catch it, bin it, kill it’ technique reducing the spread of germs. This means carrying tissues, covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue, disposing of the tissue after one use, and cleaning hands as soon as possible with soap and water or an alcohol hand gel.

Pregnant women can ask a midwife or GP practice about a flu jab or call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47 for information.