LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Mothers-to-be who choose not to get the flu shot could be putting their unborn child at risk.
People are already being hospitalized for the flu this season and Dr. Salima Thobani, an immunologist for Kaiser Permanente South Bay, says getting vaccinated is crucial, especially for those who are pregnant. Pregnancy already compromises a woman's immune system.
Doctors are warning that the flu will endanger newborns unless moms take action.
Alex Strong is 36 years old and will be expecting her first child near the end of November.
Strong admits she doesn't get the flu shot routinely. But this flu season, she will, in order to protect her son when he's born.
"Your cardiovascular system is different. Your lungs are different, you know, your uterus is expanding," said Thobani.
Studies show pregnant women who get the flu are more likely to end up hospitalized and have a higher risk for birth complications. Thobani says not only are women more vulnerable to illness during pregnancy, but so is their child, especially right after birth.
"The influenza vaccine is not offered until the infant is six months of age. So from that zero to six month window, the newborn is also at risk of having severe influenza and has absolutely no options of getting vaccinated," she said.
Transferring antibodies through a mom's placenta is the only way to offer newborns protection. Thobani says timing it correctly can give your child an edge.
"If you get vaccinated a couple of days before you deliver, that's not enough time for those antibodies to develop. You need at least two weeks for those antibodies to develop, and then to cross over into the placenta. And most of the transfer takes place 32 weeks and onward," Thobani said.
Strong followed her doctor's advice. Thobani said even if you get the shot much earlier than 32 weeks, you're still conferring immunity to your unborn child.
"It didn't hurt. I didn't get sick. And I have a lot of peace of mind knowing that I'm protecting my baby the best way I know how," Strong said.