Women want more support and advice from health professionals about flu and whooping cough vaccination in pregnancy

By RCM on 23 November 2017 Flu Vaccination

A new survey of recent mothers and pregnant women found that more than four out of five (84%) said they are getting information on flu* and whooping cough** vaccination from their midwife. Results of the survey by the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) and Emma’s Diary are published today.

The survey aims to give midwives and other healthcare professionals more information about women’s decisions on vaccinations. This will enable them to better support informed choices by women about vaccination.

Most women (79%) said midwives are their main source of information about vaccinations. A significant number (87%) said they found the information from their midwife useful or very useful in helping them make a choice about whether or not to have the flu or whooping cough vaccination.

The survey also showed a clear need from women for more support and advice. Almost half (45%) of women responding to the survey said they would like more in-depth discussion on this with health professionals. A similar number (44%) said they would like more educational materials to take home to read.

Over half of the women surveyed (55%) had both vaccinations. Over a fifth (21%) did not have either vaccination. Nearly a quarter did not go ahead with either vaccination because they were concerned about how it would affect their baby’s health. A fifth (20%) said they did not have either vaccination because of fears about a risk to their own health.

Mandy Forrester, Head of Quality and Standards at the Royal College of Midwives, said:  “The RCM recommends that women have both of these vaccinations to protect themselves and their babies from these infections which can be dangerous in pregnancy and after birth.

“The survey showed very clearly that many women do have reservations about having the vaccinations. They also said how important midwives were  as a source of information for them.   It is vital that a pregnant woman has the information she needs  to help her decide whether or not she want to have vaccinations to protect themselves and their baby against whooping cough and flu, and midwives have a critical role to play

“The findings show how important it is that midwives have the time to discuss vaccination with women and are equipped with resources and information to support them to make an informed choice.

“We also encourage and recommend that midwives and other NHS staff have the flu vaccine. This helps to protect themselves, and also women and families using maternity services, their colleagues and their own families.”

Nick Watts, Managing Director at Emma’s Diary said: “Working with the RCM on the pregnancy vaccination research has been hugely beneficial and insightful.  We’ve been able to tap into our engaged audience to better understand women’s perceptions of having vaccinations during pregnancy. We are using these findings to help shape new resources across our multi-channel offering that will support pregnant women in making more informed choices on having vaccinations while pregnant now and into the future.”

The survey was conducted in June 2017 and 2,648 completed survey responses were received from across the UK. More information on the survey findings are available from Emma’s Diary, please contact [email protected].

To contact the RCM Press Office call 020 7312 3456, or email [email protected].  For all media enquiries to Emma’s Diary contact Natalie Sanderson, Sublime PR, 01256 811808, [email protected], www.emmasdiary.co.uk.

Note to editors

About Emma’s Diary (www.emmasdiary.co.uk)

Emma’s Diary is the UK’s essential support resource for mums to be and new parents. Providing best practice support and advice on pregnancy and early post-natal information, the popular site delivers responsible and reliable content that is verified by the Royal College of General Practitioners (RGCP).  As well as gaining access to topical, useful resources, registered parents will also benefit from a competitive range of promotional offers, discounts, free gift packs and samples.

The RCM is the only trade union and professional association dedicated to serving midwifery and the whole midwifery team. We provide workplace advice and support, professional and clinical guidance and information, and learning opportunities with our broad range of events, conferences and online resources. For more information visit the RCM website at https://www.rcm.org.uk/.

*Flu  vaccination

Catching flu in pregnancy can lead to increased risks for both pregnant woman and their babies. Vaccination against flu reduces these risks. Serious complications of flu include pneumonia, septic shock (a severe and life-threatening infection of the whole body), meningitis and encephalitis (inflammation of the brain). Around 600 people die from complications of flu every year in the UK.


**Whooping cough (pertussis) vaccination

In 2012 the UK experienced a nationwide outbreak (epidemic) of pertussis (whooping cough), a highly infectious disease that can cause serious complications including death, especially in young babies. In 2012 there were over 9,300 cases in England alone – more than ten times as many as in recent years. The causes of this are not clear. In 2013 and 2014 there was a fall in cases, but numbers were still high compared to previous years. In 2015 and 2016 the numbers of cases increased again. (See graph at the bottom of this section.) 14 babies under three months old died of pertussis in 2012, and another 18 died between 2013 and 2016. Babies under three months of age are most vulnerable to severe disease.

Vaccination of mothers can protect babies from pertussis. In the UK, a temporary programme began in October 2012 to offer pertussis vaccination to pregnant women. In July 2014 it was recommended that this programme should continue for at least 5 more years, owing to continuing high levels of pertussis in the UK. A similar programme is now offered in the US, Australia, and some other European countries. Over 70% of pregnant women in England currently receive the whooping cough vaccine. http://vk.ovg.ox.ac.uk/pertussis-vaccine-in-pregnancy.

  1. PHE : Vaccinations in pregnancy leaflet
  • the flu vaccine
  • the whooping cough (pertussis) vaccine
  • the rubella (German measles) vaccine

These vaccinations are recommended for women who are pregnant. Rubella vaccination is also recommended for women who require protection before becoming pregnant again.


For further information on vaccinations while pregnant please visit: http://www.emmasdiary.co.uk/pregnancy-and-birth/pregnancy/1st-trimester-of-pregnancy/avoiding-pregnancy-risks.

To contact Emma’s Diary for all media enquiries to Emma’s Diary contact Natalie Sanderson, Sublime PR, 01256 811808, [email protected], www.emmasdiary.co.uk.

A training resource from Public Health England  for those immunising pregnant women  can be read at https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/immunisation#immunisation-training-resources-for-healthcare-professionals (Google chrome is the optimal browser to use to download slide sets).  The link  will take users  to the main site and beneath the heading immunisation of pregnant women there are five bullet points. The information about how women and healthcare professionals view immunisation chimes with Emma’s Diary/RCM survey findings.