Preparing for a disaster when you're pregnant

A disaster is an event that brings an extreme amount of stress into your life. 

It may happen as part of nature, like a flood, earthquake or storm. Or it may be caused by people, like a terrorist attack or a car accident. It can affect where you live, how you get food, how you move from place to place and how you get medical care.

Being in a disaster when you’re pregnant can make things even more stressful. Getting prepared ahead of time can make things a little easier for you just in case a disaster happens

What can you do to be prepared for a disaster?

 Here’s what you can do: 

  • Talk to your health care provider about what to do in case of a disaster, especially if you've had complications with your pregnancy or you’re close to your due date. Ask about vaccinations you may need to get. He can tell you which are safe to get during pregnancy
  • Be ready to follow evacuation instructions from your community or state. Officials can tell you how and when to leave the area and when it’s safe to go back home. Decide where you will go if you have to evacuate (leave). Can you stay with family or friends in another town? Or do you think you’ll go to a shelter
  • Tell your health care provider where you plan to go and how you can be reached. If you have a case manager or are in a program like Healthy Start or Nurse Family Partnership, tell your case manager your plans and your phone number.   
  • Make a list of important phone numbers, including your partner and your provider. Keeping these numbers on your cell phone is great, but your phone’s battery may run low. So write the numbers on paper, too. 
  • Get copies of your medical records, including a list of medicine you take, the prenatal vitamin you take and vaccinations you've had.
  • Learn the signs of preterm labor. This is labor that happens before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Stress can lead to preterm labor, and what’s more stressful than a disaster? If you have any of the signs, call your health care provider right away. If you’re in a shelter, tell someone in charge that you need medical care. 
  • Pack a bag of clothes, medicine, snacks and supplies, like batteries and flashlights. 

What can you do during a disaster to help you stay safe?

Here’s what you can do: 

  • Check in with your health care provider and let him know what you’re planning to do. 
  • If you have to evacuate, find a hospital in the new area where you can go for prenatal care
  • Keep taking your prenatal vitamins and any medicine that your provider has said is OK for you to take during pregnancy. Don’t take anything new without talking to your health care provider first. 
  • If you’re driving a long distance to evacuate, stop and get out to walk every 1 to 2 hours. Be sure to wear your seatbelt.
  • Wear comfortable shoes.  

What dangers can you look for after a disaster?

Unsafe water. After a disaster, use bottled water and follow official announcements about tap water (water from your faucet). Follow instructions about boiling tap water for cooking, cleaning and bathing. 

Boiling is the best way to make tap water safe. To kill most harmful substances in water, bring it to a rolling boil for 1 minute. If you can't boil water, use chlorine or iodine tablets. Follow the directions on the tablet package. Do not use water treated with iodine or chlorine to prepare formula. Keep treated water out of reach of children. 

Sometimes flooding happens after a disaster. Flood water may contain harmful substances like bacteria that may cause serious disease. Protect yourself with rubber gloves and boots. If you do come in contact with flood water, use soap and clean water to wash any part of your body touched by the water. If you swallow flood water and get sick, tell your health care provider right away.  

Spoiled food. Don’t eat spoiled food or any food you think may be spoiled. For more information about food safety, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Dangerous chemicals. Listen for state and local announcements about dangerous chemicals in your area. Local officials may not let you return home until they’ve made sure the area is safe. If you think you have been exposed to dangerous chemicals, tell your health care provider. Or call the Organization of Teratology Information Specialists (OTIS) at (866) 626-6847.

What kinds of things can you watch out for when you return to your home?

If you're pregnant and your home has been damaged, ask family and friends to help clean it up. There may be disaster workers in your community, too, who can help. Depending on your home’s condition, you may need to hire professionals to do the work. When you’re pregnant: 

  • Don’t do hard, physical work, like lifting and carrying heavy items.
  • Be careful of falling on stairs or when stepping over debris from the disaster.
  • Stay away from exposed electrical wires to keep from getting shocked. 
  • Stay away from bacteria and mold that can get on walls, floors, furniture and other items. You may need to hire professionals to remove mold from your home.

How can you cope with stress after a disaster?

Stress can affect your health and your baby’s health during pregnancy. To help relieve your stress, share your feelings with someone—a friend, family member, a health care provider or a counselor. Talk to this person for a few minutes each day. Share your worries and concerns. Talking about them can help make you feel better.

The stress of a disaster can affect your relationship with your partner. Abuse is never OK. It’s not OK if your partner (or anyone else) hits, kicks or pushes you. It’s not OK if he yells at you, scares you or calls you names. If your partner abuses you, tell a friend or your health care provider. Or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 799- SAFE (7233). 

Take care of your body’s stress, too. Rest when you can and don’t get overheated. Try to eat regular meals during the day. 

More information


See also:
 Disaster kit preparedness (.PDF, 459KB), Earthquake preparedness (.PDF, 390KB), Emergency preparedness (.PDF, 413KB), Hurricane preparedness (.PDF, 410KB), Tornado preparedness (.PDF, 350KB), Wildfire preparedness (.PDF, 455KB), Caring for your baby in a disaster


Last reviewed: May, 2014

A disaster is an event that brings an extreme amount of stress into your life. 

It may happen as part of nature, like a flood, earthquake or storm. Or it may be caused by people, like a terrorist attack or a car accident. It can affect where you live, how you get food, how you move from place to place and how you get medical care.

Being in a disaster when you’re pregnant can make things even more stressful. Getting prepared ahead of time can make things a little easier for you just in case a disaster happens

What can you do to be prepared for a disaster?

 Here’s what you can do: 

  • Talk to your health care provider about what to do in case of a disaster, especially if you've had complications with your pregnancy or you’re close to your due date. Ask about vaccinations you may need to get. He can tell you which are safe to get during pregnancy
  • Be ready to follow evacuation instructions from your community or state. Officials can tell you how and when to leave the area and when it’s safe to go back home. Decide where you will go if you have to evacuate (leave). Can you stay with family or friends in another town? Or do you think you’ll go to a shelter
  • Tell your health care provider where you plan to go and how you can be reached. If you have a case manager or are in a program like Healthy Start or Nurse Family Partnership, tell your case manager your plans and your phone number.   
  • Make a list of important phone numbers, including your partner and your provider. Keeping these numbers on your cell phone is great, but your phone’s battery may run low. So write the numbers on paper, too. 
  • Get copies of your medical records, including a list of medicine you take, the prenatal vitamin you take and vaccinations you've had.
  • Learn the signs of preterm labor. This is labor that happens before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Stress can lead to preterm labor, and what’s more stressful than a disaster? If you have any of the signs, call your health care provider right away. If you’re in a shelter, tell someone in charge that you need medical care. 
  • Pack a bag of clothes, medicine, snacks and supplies, like batteries and flashlights. 

What can you do during a disaster to help you stay safe?

Here’s what you can do: 

  • Check in with your health care provider and let him know what you’re planning to do. 
  • If you have to evacuate, find a hospital in the new area where you can go for prenatal care
  • Keep taking your prenatal vitamins and any medicine that your provider has said is OK for you to take during pregnancy. Don’t take anything new without talking to your health care provider first. 
  • If you’re driving a long distance to evacuate, stop and get out to walk every 1 to 2 hours. Be sure to wear your seatbelt.
  • Wear comfortable shoes.  

What dangers can you look for after a disaster?

Unsafe water. After a disaster, use bottled water and follow official announcements about tap water (water from your faucet). Follow instructions about boiling tap water for cooking, cleaning and bathing. 

Boiling is the best way to make tap water safe. To kill most harmful substances in water, bring it to a rolling boil for 1 minute. If you can't boil water, use chlorine or iodine tablets. Follow the directions on the tablet package. Do not use water treated with iodine or chlorine to prepare formula. Keep treated water out of reach of children. 

Sometimes flooding happens after a disaster. Flood water may contain harmful substances like bacteria that may cause serious disease. Protect yourself with rubber gloves and boots. If you do come in contact with flood water, use soap and clean water to wash any part of your body touched by the water. If you swallow flood water and get sick, tell your health care provider right away.  

Spoiled food. Don’t eat spoiled food or any food you think may be spoiled. For more information about food safety, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Dangerous chemicals. Listen for state and local announcements about dangerous chemicals in your area. Local officials may not let you return home until they’ve made sure the area is safe. If you think you have been exposed to dangerous chemicals, tell your health care provider. Or call the Organization of Teratology Information Specialists (OTIS) at (866) 626-6847.

What kinds of things can you watch out for when you return to your home?

If you're pregnant and your home has been damaged, ask family and friends to help clean it up. There may be disaster workers in your community, too, who can help. Depending on your home’s condition, you may need to hire professionals to do the work. When you’re pregnant: 

  • Don’t do hard, physical work, like lifting and carrying heavy items.
  • Be careful of falling on stairs or when stepping over debris from the disaster.
  • Stay away from exposed electrical wires to keep from getting shocked. 
  • Stay away from bacteria and mold that can get on walls, floors, furniture and other items. You may need to hire professionals to remove mold from your home.

How can you cope with stress after a disaster?

Stress can affect your health and your baby’s health during pregnancy. To help relieve your stress, share your feelings with someone—a friend, family member, a health care provider or a counselor. Talk to this person for a few minutes each day. Share your worries and concerns. Talking about them can help make you feel better.

The stress of a disaster can affect your relationship with your partner. Abuse is never OK. It’s not OK if your partner (or anyone else) hits, kicks or pushes you. It’s not OK if he yells at you, scares you or calls you names. If your partner abuses you, tell a friend or your health care provider. Or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 799- SAFE (7233). 

Take care of your body’s stress, too. Rest when you can and don’t get overheated. Try to eat regular meals during the day. 

More information


See also:
 Disaster kit preparedness (.PDF, 459KB), Earthquake preparedness (.PDF, 390KB), Emergency preparedness (.PDF, 413KB), Hurricane preparedness (.PDF, 410KB), Tornado preparedness (.PDF, 350KB), Wildfire preparedness (.PDF, 455KB), Caring for your baby in a disaster


Last reviewed: May, 2014