11/11/2013 01:19 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

The Vaccine That All Pregnant Women Should Get

When we think of individuals that need to be immunized, healthy women don't often come to mind. But the flu can hit our pregnant moms hard, meaning unborn babies get hit even harder.

After a pregnant woman is vaccinated, she can avoid serious flu-related illnesses and pregnancy complications, such as miscarriage or premature labor. In fact, an unborn child can be protected from the flu for up to six months after birth if the mother is immunized.

I had one patient who taught me the importance of vaccinating against the flu during pregnancy the hard way. This woman was pregnant, and not immunized, during the 2003 flu epidemic. Not only did she catch the flu, but also was so ill that she needed to be admitted to the intensive care unit at our hospital. She ended up needing a ventilator to breathe, which then escalated into a tracheostomy. The patient spent over 30 days in the hospital, and miscarried 20 weeks into her pregnancy.

In order to support mothers-to-be in need of this critical vaccination, Rite Aid and text4baby are partnering to provide 10,000 free flu shots to pregnant women. This is a part of their broader partnership to educate women throughout their pregnancies and new mothers about the text4baby program at Rite Aid locations through circular ads, in-store displays and social media. Wellness Ambassadors will also be providing information about the service and helping moms enroll in Rite Aid wellness stores.

To be eligible for a free flu shot, sign up for text4baby by texting "RABABY" (or "RABEBE" for Spanish) to 511411. A text message will notify you about the free flu shot. Just reply to this message, and mothers will receive a unique code to use at any Rite Aid store to get a vaccination. As a part of the text4baby program, and with the support of founding sponsor Johnson & Johnson, moms will also receive three free messages a week during their pregnancy and their baby's first year on topics like nutrition, baby development, breastfeeding, safety and much more.

When a pregnant woman gets immunized, both mom and baby get the flu less often. Let's make this a reality by encouraging the pregnant women we love to get vaccinated this flu season.