Written by SMH Mother-Baby Nurse Sheera Thomas
Last year, Hurricane Irma hit our area as a much less intense storm than predicted and still left many of us without power for weeks. As the 2018 storm season moves into September—historically, the most active part of hurricane season—pregnant women should be sure they've made special preparations in case our area is impacted by a severe storm or hurricane.
It’s critical to have an emergency kit and a plan in place well before a storm is headed our way. As we learned in Irma, supplies become scarce as a storm approaches, so it’s best not to wait until the last minute to prepare—particularly if you’re pregnant or have/will have an infant.
Being pregnant during hurricane season can add a lot of stress; being prepared in advance of a storm will help decrease some of that stress.
Dos and Don’ts
- Talk to your OB healthcare provider to develop an individualized plan based on your own medical situation; there is no one size fits all.
- If your due date falls during hurricane season, take a breastfeeding class ahead of time and read books on breastfeeding. Breast milk is the best food for a newborn. It is naturally clean and will help protect your infant from illnesses while providing comfort to both you and your baby. Baby will stay safe and warm being close to you. Learn how to express your milk by hand and how to feed your baby with a cup. Breast pumps and bottles cannot be cleaned without clean water, and breast milk cannot be stored without refrigeration.
- Know where the nearest shelters are or have an evacuation plan. If you plan to evacuate, familiarize yourself with your destination’s hospitals and be sure to take a copy of your medical records.
- During Irma, a few pregnant women we talked with who were near-term chose to stay in shelters near the hospital where they planned to deliver; this gave them peace of mind through the storm and made post-storm access easier in case they needed it.
- Sarasota Memorial Hospital is not a public storm shelter. We cannot accommodate non-patients during a storm, unless Sarasota County government has deemed the individual to be “medically dependent” and has assigned him/her to SMH.
- During a hurricane, the hospital—as well as local emergency services—will be on lock down. It isn’t safe to be out or to drive during the peak hours of a hurricane; if you need to get to a hospital, wait until the county has given an “all clear” and you can safely drive on the roads.
- Be sure to monitor local news, radio stations and social media (Sarasota Memorial Hospital, Sarasota County government, Manatee County Emergency Management, Sarasota County Sheriff's Office, etc.) for updates on road closures and emergency services’ status.
- Know the signs of pre-term labor (labor that begins before 37 weeks of pregnancy).
Emergency Kit Supplies
All families should stock up on standard hurricane supplies early (… like now). I personally, will be stocking up before all the shelves are bare: flashlights, batteries, a cooler, bug spray (DEET-free for pregnant women and infants), first-aid items, non-perishable foods and water.
The American Public Health Association
(APHA) also suggests a pregnant woman should include the following in her emergency kit:
- Nutritious, shelf-stable foods like nuts, dried fruits and protein bars
- Prenatal vitamins and other medications
- Extra bottled water
- Emergency birth supplies: clean towels, sharp scissors, an infant bulb syringe, medical gloves, two white shoelaces, sheets, sanitary pads and two baby blankets
For more great hurricane-prep tips for pregnant women and new moms, we highly recommend visiting the APHA’s website; click here.
SMH Mother-Baby Discharge Facilitator Sheera Thomas, RN, has been an OB nurse for more than 20 years. She is an internationally board-certified lactation consultant, a certified childbirth educator, and—perhaps her most demanding role—a mother of four.