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Importance of Flu Vaccination for Pregnant Women


Brid Stack was 26 weeks pregnant with her first child when she began vomiting severely overnight.

She came to the Rotunda Hospital and was assessed for dehydration. She was given intravenous fluids and anti-sickness medications, but to no benefit. Because she still felt too ill to go home, she stayed in the hospital and was observed closely. At 6pm a slight temperature increase was noticed, along with a high heart rate. Samples of Brid’s blood and throat swabs were taken and she was admitted to the High Dependency Unit. By 9pm it was confirmed that she had a severe case of influenza, the potentially serious H1N1 subtype.

Brid was offered the flu vaccine at her workplace that year, but didn’t take it. She never had the ‘typical’ flu symptoms, like a cough or a cold or a runny nose. She didn’t know that pregnant women are more likely to become very ill from flu due to changes in their heart and lung function[1], and that 1 in 11 maternal deaths are caused by influenza.[2]

In the hospital she was treated with antiviral medications. Her fluid and oxygen levels were monitored every 15 minutes. She remained in the hospital for 5 days, but it took her a whole month to recover completely.

Brid will tell her story at the Flu in Pregnancy Mini Symposium on November 15th in The Rotunda Hospital, and urge pregnant women not to make the same mistake she did and get the flu vaccine this winter.

As part of the Rotunda Hospital’s mission to improve patient outcomes and in collaboration with colleagues in the North Dublin City GP Training programme, the RCSI School of Pharmacy, and the Irish College of General Practitioners, the Rotunda Hospital is hosting this mini-symposium with the aim of raising awareness about flu in pregnancy, to minimise the risk of flu in pregnancy and to improve maternal and newborn outcomes.

Brid will be joined by researchers from The Rotunda Hospital and its partners, who will address the questions we’re asking about flu in pregnancy.

Dr Maeve Eogan, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, will speak about the clinical impact of influenza in pregnancy and how important it is to remember that pregnant women with influenza are more likely to develop severe illness and die than the general population and thus that inactivated flu vaccine is recommended for all pregnant women, regardless of trimester.

Dr Richard Drew, Consultant Microbiologist, will explore the challenges around testing for influenza. He will outline the results of a quality improvement project that has just been completed, which aims to improve patient care by providing on-site rapid influenza diagnostics in the hospital.

Ms Marian Brennan, Assistant Director of Midwifery, Infection Prevention and Control, will address caring for women with influenza in pregnancy from a midwifery perspective and relevant Infection Prevention and Control guidelines.

Dr Brian Cleary, Dr Aisling O’Shea and Ms Tina Barrett will present the results of recent studies conducted by the Rotunda Hospital which examined women’s and health professionals’ perception of flu vaccination and the rates of vaccine uptake among women during pregnancy.

Professor Fergal Malone, Master of The Rotunda Hospital, said; ‘Influenza complicating pregnancy is a potentially very serious condition and we at the Rotunda encourage all pregnant women to get themselves vaccinated. Mothers can be assured that the vaccine is safe and that vaccination is a tremendously positive step that they can take to optimise both their own health and the health of their baby. This symposium will provide patients and healthcare providers with the knowledge needed to maximise the uptake of influenza vaccination in our community. ‘

Professor Brian Cleary, Chief Pharmacist, Rotunda Hospital, said; ‘This mini-symposium is important for the Rotunda Hospital as it gives us the opportunity to deliver a clear public health message: Women who become pregnant at any stage during the flu season should get the flu vaccine. The vaccine provides protection for both mother and baby and can be given at any stage of pregnancy. ‘

Schedule of events

Flu in Pregnancy Mini Symposium - Tuesday November 15th

The Pillar Room, Rotunda Hospital

10:30     Tea/Coffee/Refreshments

11:00     Welcome Address - Prof. Fergal Malone, Master, Rotunda Hospital

11:05     Women’s Perceptions of Flu Vaccination in Pregnancy: a Qualitative Study - Dr. Aisling O’Shea

11:25     Flu in Pregnancy- a Midwifery Perspective - Ms. Marian Brennan

11:35     Clinical Impact of Flu in Pregnancy - Dr. Maeve Eogan

11:45     Severe Flu in Pregnancy- a Woman’s Journey  - Ms. Bríd Stack

12:00     Flu Vaccination in Pregnancy and Outstanding Research Questions - Dr. Brian Cleary

12:10     Survey of Flu Vaccination Uptake in Postnatal Women  - Ms. Tina Barrett

12:25     Flu Vaccination in Pregnancy a Health Professional Survey - Dr. Aisling O’Shea

12:40     Flu in Pregnancy: Diagnostic Advances - Dr. Richard Drew

12:55     Panel Discussion

13:15     Closing Remarks

[2] MMBRACE UK’s report “Saving Lives, Improving Mother’s Care: Lessons learned to inform future maternity care from the UK and Ireland Confidential Enquiries into Maternal Deaths and Morbidity 2009-2012 -

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