• Mayo Clinic Minute

    Mayo Clinic Minute: Protecting pregnant women against flu

A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finds that when mothers receive the flu vaccine, their babies experience fewer hospitalizations and emergency room visits for the flu, particularly if the baby is under 3 months old or born to a mother who received the vaccine in the third trimester.

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

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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.

a young pregnant woman on a couch, with medicine and coughing, sneezing looking like she's sick or ill with a cold, flu, or allergies
 Pregnant women are at higher risk of severe illness associated with flu illness

"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 CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older get a flu vaccine yearly.