The best way to prevent flu is to get a vaccine early on in pregnancy. File photo: AP

Pregnant women are always encouraged to take extra care of their health, especially when it come to nasty viruses and germs.

As winter gets into full swing, experts are now warning expectant moms to be extra vigilant and get their annual flu shots.

“A woman’s immune system is generally weaker during pregnancy and flu can quickly be complicated by bacterial infections like pneumonia. This can lead to complications such as premature labour, which is risky for both mom and baby,” says Dr Howard Manyonga, an obstetrician and Head of The Birthing Team, a maternity programme that focusses on proactive prenatal care.

The best way to prevent flu is to get a vaccine early on in pregnancy; this provides moderate to high protection from the most common viral strains. “The latest flu vaccine is included in The Birthing Team’s programme, as a guard against complications that risk mother and baby health – we see it as necessary prenatal prevention,” adds Manyonga.

Women who are pregnant should also be aware of the symptoms of flu, which include fever, aches, fatigue and cold symptoms like sneezing and a sore throat. “If a woman experiences difficulty breathing, pain in their chest, dizziness, vomiting or a high fever – they should speak to their medical team immediately."

When it comes to prevention, he recommends that women wash their hands frequently, drink plenty of water and get plenty of rest. “Beyond a vaccine, it is important to look after your health during the growth and development of your baby - allowing yourself to get run down is risky."