As residents of the East Coast ready for the first hurricane of the 2011 season, the March of Dimes offers valuable tips for pregnant women and parents of new babies on how to prepare for emergencies and the need to evacuate from their homes.
"A hurricane or other natural disaster is stressful for everyone, but pregnant women and new parents have special concerns that can be addressed through proper preparation," says Dr. Scott Berns, MD, MPH, of the March of Dimes. "Being prepared and having a plan in place will save precious time in an emergency and reduce stress."
Pregnant women should discuss any concerns and their delivery plans with their obstetrician or other perinatal care provider. Families should follow hurricane readiness guidelines and put together an emergency bag in the event they many need to evacuate quickly.
The March of Dimes chapters and its website are good sources of information for pregnant women. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also offers important information about preparing for a hurricane.
While pregnant women should follow the general hurricane preparedness recommendations, they and new mothers also should take special precautions for themselves and their children.
March of Dimes Emergency Preparedness Tips for Pregnant Women and New Parents
1. Pregnant women should know the signs of labor, and if they experience any of these symptoms they should NOT wait for them to just go away. They should seek immediate medical care. Preterm labor is any labor before 37 weeks gestation. The signs of labor are:
- Contractions (the abdomen tightens like a fist) every 10 minutes or more often
- Change in vaginal discharge (leaking fluid or bleeding from the vagina)
- Pelvic pressure -- the feeling that the baby is pushing down
- Low, dull backache
- Cramps that feel like a period
- Abdominal cramps with or without diarrhea
2. Pregnant women should pack prenatal vitamins, or perhaps an extra supply of over-the-counter vitamins, along with extra maternity clothes.
3. Fill prescription medications in advance.
4. Have bottled water and non-perishable food supplies on hand. Try to stock food that is high in protein and low in fat.
5. New parents who may need to stay in a shelter should consider bringing a safe place for their baby to sleep, such as a portable crib, as well as extra diapers and other basic medical supplies.
6. New parents also should take special steps to ensure they have food for their infants. The stress of a hurricane may affect lactating women's milk supply, although breastfeeding can be calming for both mother and baby.
7. In the rare instance it becomes impossible to continue to breastfeed, mothers may consider weaning their baby. If they choose to switch to formula, parents should use pre-prepared formula because there may be concerns about the quality of the water supply. Do not use water treated with iodine or chlorine tablets to prepare powdered formula.
8. Pregnant women should do their best to eat regularly and nutritiously and remain hydrated. They also should do their best to get enough rest.
For the latest resources and information from the March of Dimes, visit www.marchofdimes.com or www.nacersano.org (en espanol). The organization is also on Facebook and Twitter.