As news of Hurricane Florence threatens the coastal Southeast this week, many people are preparing for potential power outages, stocking up on supplies, and planning for the possibility of evacuation. If you are pregnant and live in an area along the projected hurricane path, you may have extra concerns weighing on your mind. Along with the standard advice for hurricane preparedness and evacuation, we want to share the additional steps and considerations to take if you are pregnant, and especially if you are near your due date or late in your third trimester.
Hurricane Preparedness While Pregnant
Adjust your family's plan for pregnancy - If you've created a family hurricane plan (where you will go, when you will go, what you will take, etc.), make adjustments to consider your pregnancy and possible birth. This could include changing where you evacuate to based on available/nearby medical options and birthing facilities, leaving earlier or later than you would have if not pregnant, and what you will take with you.
Call your doctor or midwife - Find out if they have guidelines and resources for you to follow during a natural disaster. They may have sister offices in other cities, or they may be able to provide general advice if you need medical care during or after an evacuation, as well as information on local shelters if needed. Also, if you don't already have a copy of your medical records in hand or available on their portal, request a copy of your medical history. In the event of network and power outages, paper records are helpful. This is especially true of you have medical complications or a high-risk pregnancy.
Stock up on medications and/or special equipment - Call in for prescription refills and/or request hand-written prescriptions from your doctor or midwife to have at least two weeks of medication on hand if you are displaced. If you have diabetes, asthma, or another condition that requires special equipment, stock up on supplies to take with you.
Have plenty of water and snacks - Dehydration during pregnancy can cause preterm labor, so be sure to have plenty of safe drinking water available. As the storm approaches, stores are more likely to run out of bottled water, even as far as one week out, so plan ahead by keeping gallons of emergency water on hand. Fill up all reusable drink bottles and containers with tap water prior to the storm, too. When purchasing food and snacks, choose non-perishable, ready-to-eat items that will offer nutrition and bulk and don't require refrigeration. Nuts, beef jerky, apples, protein bars, cereal/granola, trail mix/dried fruit, peanut butter, crackers, canned tuna/chicken/salmon are some examples of good foods to stock up on for a hurricane.
Pack your hospital (labor/birth) bag - This is especially important if you are in your eighth or ninth month of pregnancy. Pack the supplies that you would have packed for yourself, your partner, and your baby to bring to your hospital, birth center, or for a home birth.
Pack emergency birth supplies - In the event you go into labor and cannot locate a facility/hospital in time, it will help to have emergency birth supplies on hand, as well as a set of instructions for assisting with birth. The American College of Nurse Midwives (ACNM) has a helpful two-page resource sheet with a supplies list and instructions.
Know the signs of preterm labor - If you are experiencing signs of preterm labor (labor before 38 weeks), go to the closest hospital if you are on the road or in a different city. If you are still at home, call your doctor or midwife or go to your hospital to get checked.
Locate a new provider. If you evacuate, seek out a hospital or birth center that handles birth and prenatal care in the area you will be staying. This will be helpful in the event you need urgent prenatal care or go into labor during evacuation. You may not ever need it, but it will be reassuring to have a name and number on hand if you're in an emergency situation. If you would like a recommendation for a good hospital in that area, contact a local childbirth educator or doula to ask which hospitals or birth centers they recommend.
Heed your local evacuation recommendations - This is good advice for anyone, pregnant or not. If your local officials recommend you evacuate your area, make every effort to do so in a safe and timely manner.
If you stay home - If you choose to stay in your home during an evacuation, stock up on supplies and stay in your home until authorities say it is safe to venture out. If you move to a shelter, let the shelter know that you are pregnant upon arrival. If you go into labor while at home or in a shelter, find out which hospital(s) are in operation and get to the hospital if it is safe for you to do so. If not, call 911 to let them know you need medical assistance to give birth in your current location or you need transportation to a hospital if possible. If medical assistance is not immediately available, follow guidelines to give birth in place and keep trying to reach medical assistance to attend to you as soon as possible.