The March of Dimes says getting the flu early in pregnancy can double the risk of birth defects.
Pregnant woman getting a shot
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We already know that we're supposed to get a flu shot when we're expecting, according to guidelines from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. That's because the vaccine benefits both mama-to-be, helping her to avoid the virus that could lead to pregnancy complications and more serious illness, and protects the baby-on-the-way too, when mama passes on antibodies that can bolster newborns until they are old enough to be vaccinated at six months.

And now, the March of Dimes has released some numbers that even more seriously underscore the importance of getting a flu shot during pregnancy: According to the group, women who get the flu early in their pregnancies are twice as likely to have a baby with a serious birth defect affecting the brain, spine, or heart than women who don't get the virus while expecting.

It's not known whether the risks are associated with the high fever that comes with the flu, or something about the flu itself.

As it stands now, only about half of all pregnant women in America get a flu shot every season, leaving the other half susceptible to unnecessary risk.

"The annual flu shot should be a priority in prenatal care," said March of Dimes chief medical officer Edward R.B. McCabe, MD, in the release. "Health care providers should offer all their pregnant patients a flu shot each year and if they don't offer it, then women should ask for it."

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Alesandra Dubin is a mom to one-year-old boy-girl twins. She's also a Los Angeles-based writer and the founder of lifestyle blog Homebody in Motion. Follow her on FacebookInstagramGoogle+ and Twitter.