As you may have heard, the United States is experiencing a severe and deadly flu outbreak this winter. With widespread illness and a high rate of contagion, experts at HCA Healthcare affiliate The Woman’s Hospital of Texas are suggesting that everyone receive a flu vaccine, especially one of the most vulnerable populations – pregnant women.

The flu is more likely to cause severe illness in pregnant women because of changes to their immune system, heart, and lungs during pregnancy. It can also be harmful to a developing baby, as fevers are associated with neural tube defects and other injuries.

“The influenza vaccine will not only significantly decrease the chances of a pregnant woman developing the flu, but also, if she gets the flu, it may decrease the severity of her symptoms,” said Ivonne Smith, M.D., an OB-GYN at the HCA Gulf Coast Division hospital. “An added benefit to the vaccine is protection for her infant, as maternal immunizations have also shown to decrease complications in infants in the first several months of life.”

Emilie Dahan, a patient of Dr. Smith’s, recently visited the practice to receive her flu shot. Dahan is 26 weeks pregnant.

“As a nurse, I know the importance of preventative care, especially if you are immunocompromised, as are the elderly or pregnant women,” Dahan said. “Getting the flu vaccine is an easy and worthwhile step to take, and it’s important to protect others from the flu, as well.”

Flu shots have been given to millions of pregnant women over the years with a good safety record, and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends them for all pregnant women at any time throughout the pregnancy.

“The influenza vaccine has been shown to be as effective and safe in pregnant women as the general population,” added Smith. “We are still in the flu season, so it’s not too late to get the vaccine.”

Since 1976, The Woman’s Hospital of Texas, an affiliate of HCA Healthcare, has been the state’s premier facility dedicated to the health and well-being of women, newborns and children. The Woman’s Hospital of Texas is located in Houston.