• Mayo Clinic Minute: Protecting pregnant women against flu

Flu is a respiratory illness that can spread quickly in a community. Vaccination can help slow the spread of disease. There are many health benefits to getting vaccinated. It can keep you from becoming sick, reduce the severity of illness, lower the risk of cardiac events and, for those at high risk, reduce serious complications.

Pregnant women are among those at higher risk of complications. Dr. Thomas Howell Jr., an OB-GYN at Mayo Clinic Health System, explains in this Mayo Clinic Minute.

Watch: The Mayo Clinic Minute

Journalists: Broadcast-quality video (1:01) is in the downloads at the end of this post. Please courtesy: "Mayo Clinic News Network." Read the script.

Flu symptoms can feel terrible. For some, having the flu can be devastating. 

"We want pregnant women to protect themselves as much as they can. But one of the ways we do that is by protecting the community," says Dr. Howell.

Pregnant women are more likely to develop flu complications, especially in the second and third trimesters. And flu infection also increases the risks of fetal birth defects.

"If you have a pregnant person in your house, your family, your immediate sphere of activity and influence, should you get a flu shot? Absolutely. Are you doing it just for you? Absolutely not," he says.

Their health depends on the health of others during this flu season.

"Your ability to not get as sick or not have as much exposure is important for everybody," says Dr. Howell.

The flu vaccine takes about two weeks to take effect. And it's essential to use other safety measures. Wash your hands often, practice good health habits and stay home when sick.

Dr. Howell says everyone who is eligible should get a flu shot this season.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone 6 months and older get a flu vaccine yearly.

For the safety of its patients, staff and visitors, Mayo Clinic has strict masking policies in place. Anyone shown without a mask was recorded prior to COVID-19 or recorded in an area not designated for patient care, where social distancing and other safety protocols were followed.

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