Hurricane season is here, and that means it’s time to have your severe weather plans in place. Unlike some disasters, hurricanes usually come with warnings, giving pregnant women and families with infants time to prepare. Being prepared before a hurricane strikes can help you and your family stay safe.
Before a hurricane
Create a family communication plan so everyone knows what needs to be done before and during a hurricane or in an evacuation. Review and practice the plan with all family members. If you need to evacuate, know where the nearest shelter is and how to get there safely. If there is a storm forecasted, make sure your cars are filled with gas.
If you are pregnant, know the location of other places to have your baby in case you cannot get to the hospital or birthing center of your choice. If you are close to your due date, talk to your health care provider about what to do in case of an emergency.
During and after a hurricane
While the decision to leave your home can be hard, do not ignore evacuation orders. If evacuated, upon arrival at the shelter, make sure that officials know that you are pregnant or have an infant with you. No matter where you are after a hurricane, it is important to continue your prenatal care.
If evacuation orders are not given and you remain at home, stay inside until officials say it is safe to leave. If your home is too damaged to stay in after a hurricane, you may need to go to a shelter or to stay with friends or family, so decide beforehand where you can go.
If you are pregnant, take care not to get dehydrated or overtired during clean-up after a hurricane. Drink plenty of clean water, take cool showers, and stay in an air-conditioned area if possible. Do not try to lift large or heavy objects. If you are worried about yourself or your baby, contact your health care provider immediately. Wash your hands thoroughly after coming into contact with floodwaters, as they may be polluted.
Breastfeeding is the best food for your baby. Breast milk is naturally clean, helps protect your infant from illnesses and can provide comfort to both you and your baby. If you are a mom who relies on pumped milk, make sure you know how to express your milk by hand and how to feed your baby with a cup. Breast pumps cannot be cleaned without clean water, and milk cannot be stored without refrigeration.
Breastfeeding mothers can continue to make milk during stressful events such as disasters. It is important that nursing mothers get extra food and fluids, but even moms who have gone without food can breastfeed. Keeping your baby warm and close will provide additional protection for your baby.
If it is medically necessary to feed your baby infant formula during a disaster, ready-to-feed formula is recommended. Clean water may not be available for mixing with powdered formula or for cleaning bottles and nipples. Feeding your baby with a small disposable cup is preferable. Even tiny babies can use a cup. Unused formula cannot be refrigerated during a power outage, so small containers of formula work best.
Being pregnant during and after a hurricane can be a stressful time and hard on your body. Rest as much as you can, drink plenty of clean water, and eat several times during the day. It is important to go for your regular prenatal care visits as soon as you are out of immediate danger.
If you cannot reach your regular health care provider, ask at the emergency shelter or local hospital where you can go to receive care.
Know the signs of preterm labor
Preterm labor, which is labor that begins before 37 weeks of pregnancy, may occur in some pregnant women after a disaster. If you have any signs of preterm labor, call your health care provider, go to the hospital, or tell the person in charge of the emergency shelter right away. These signs include:
• contractions that make your belly tighten up like a fist every ten minutes or more often
• low, dull backache
• change in the color of your vaginal discharge, or bleeding from your vagina
• cramps that feel like your period
• the feeling that your baby is pushing down (pelvic pressure)
• belly cramps with or without diarrhea
At Carolina OB/GYN, our five board-certified physicians and three certified nurse-midwives have over 75 years of combined experience in obstetrics and gynecology. Your health, and that of your unborn baby is our primary concern.
Information courtesy of the American Public Health Association and the March of Dimes.