Pregnant During Hurricane Season :: Keeping Yourself and Baby Safe

Hurricane season in Texas starts June 1 and ends November 30, with most storms hitting the Texas coast in August and September. For many Houstonians, Hurricane Harvey is anything but a distant memory, with many people still recovering. Although it is said that Hurricane Harvey was a once in a lifetime storm, it was a life-changing event for many Houston-area families. I saw a patient just yesterday who is STILL displaced after losing everything.

The one thing Harvey taught us is that even if you don’t live on the Texas Coast you are still vulnerable to the effects of such a massive storm. The good thing about hurricanes is that most come with plenty of warning, and allow time for expectant moms and families with pets, children, elderly family members or relatives with special needs to prepare.

Here is what you need to know if you are pregnant and a hurricane is expected to make landfall where you live ::

Can hurricanes make pregnant women go into labor?…

During a hurricane, the barometric pressure drops. Because the uterus is sort of like a balloon filled with water {and a baby}, it is commonly believed that drops in barometric {or external} pressure can make the amniotic fluid sac rupture, which can trigger labor. Available studies have very conflicting results, with some of the larger studies showing no association between hurricanes and more women going into labor. What is more likely to happen is many women will be brought to the hospital just prior to the expected onset of a hurricane for an earlier delivery via scheduled induction or Cesarean section. In addition, it may be necessary to shelter certain high risk pregnant women at the hospital, like those with a history of preterm labor or those with a multiple gestation or placental abnormality, because they are at risk for an early delivery. Finally, it may just be the mental and physical stress and anxiety that comes with an impeding natural disaster that brings on labor during a hurricane, rather than the hurricane itself. 

Try not to panic…

  • Stress and anxiety can trigger contractions and lead to term or preterm labor.
  • Try to remain as calm as possible. If you feel like you are getting too stressed, allow someone else to take over.

If you take medications during pregnancy…

  • Keep an updated list of all medications you take–prescribed and over the counter–and keep prescriptions in their original bottles.
  • Keep all medications in a waterproof bag along with any additional equipment you need, like insulin syringes, glucometer, asthma nebulizer, etc.
  • Make sure you have a two week to one month supply of medications with you, especially if you have to evacuate. If you cannot get to a pharmacy, make sure you have refills available at the pharmacy. Pharmacies can transfer prescriptions to other pharmacies if necessary. This is also easier if you have your medications in their original bottle.

Call your obstetrical care provider’s office…

  • Let the office staff know if you plan to evacuate and leave current contact information with them.
  • Ask for a copy of your prenatal records. It is always best to have access to “My Chart” or any medical records access your obstetrical care provider’s office or hospital provides. That way you can access your records via computer if you don’t have time to get paper records and have to be seen by another provider after evacuation.
  • If you have had complications in your pregnancy, discuss with your provider if it is best for you to evacuate or shelter at the hospital.  
  • If sheltering at the hospital is recommended for you, be sure to ask how many people can come with you and what you should bring. You may need to bring your own food, water, bedding and personal supplies. Be sure to bring your own supply of medications. Most importantly, make sure your reservation at the hospital is confirmed before going. 

Know the signs and symptoms of preterm {and term} labor…

According to the March of Dimes, you should be concerned if any of the following occur ::
  • Change in your vaginal discharge {watery, mucus or bloody} or more vaginal discharge than usual.
  • Pressure in your pelvis or lower belly, like your baby is pushing down.
  • Constant low, dull backache.
  • Belly cramps with or without diarrhea.
  • Regular or frequent contractions that make your belly tighten like a fist or “ball up”. The contractions may or may not be painful.
  • Your water breaks.

Take care of yourself…

  • Unless you are under a mandatory evacuation, it is better to stay home.
  • Stay hydrated with fresh water and keep food and snacks {especially nonperishable} well stocked and readily available.
  • Avoid heavy lifting.
  • Stay away from any potential falling objects or debris.
  • Try to make sure another adult is with you at all times. 
  • Stay cool as much as possible; heat can bring on stress, dehydration and labor.
  • Be sure to have your home hurricane ready with this complete hurricane supply list from the National Hurricane Survival Initiative.

If evacuation is mandatory…

  • EVACUATE! It is simply not worth it for the pregnant woman to ignore orders to evacuate. Start the evacuation process as soon as possible.  
  • Always have a place to evacuate secured and an execution plan in place during hurricane season, especially if you are pregnant and/or your family includes children, pets, elderly family members or relatives with special needs. If you don’t have a place you can evacuate to, know where the nearest shelter is located. Make sure the shelter knows that you are pregnant.
  • Know where the nearest hospital is located in case you need to be seen while in an evacuation.
  • Make sure you take plenty of supplies with you. Refer to this APHA complete list of recommended supplies if you are pregnant and this CNIC complete list of general supplies if you going to a shelter. 

Hurricane Harvey was a big dose of reality for many Houstonians. Many of us were truly humbled after the events of those 5 days last August. Those of us who never thought we would have to be “hurricane ready” are now making sure we have plans and supplies in place. It is best to be prepared and safe in order to protect the most vulnerable, and this especially includes our pregnant moms and babies. 

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