As residents of Florida and the Southeast brace for Hurricane Irma, and possibly other storms to follow that could bring high-speed winds and torrential rain, the March of Dimes offers tips to help protect pregnant women, moms, and newborns in case of emergencies.
1) Pregnant women should discuss any concerns and their delivery plans with their obstetrician or other perinatal care provider. Know the signs of labor and if you experience any of these symptoms, do NOT wait for them to just go away. Seek immediate medical care. Preterm labor is any labor before 37 weeks gestation. The signs of labor are:
- 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. The contractions may or may not be painful.
- Your water breaks.
2) All families should have at least a three-day supply of food and sterile water stored in their homes, with at least one gallon of water per person per day. If you have the space, experts recommend a week’s supply of non-perishable food and sterile water. Try to choose foods that are high in protein and low in salt and fat.
3) Your stockpile also should contain a battery-operated radio in case the power goes out; flashlights; a manual can opener; extra batteries; and copies of important documents. For downloadable instructions online for creating a disaster kit, go to:
4) If your baby uses medical equipment, charge all equipment with backup energy sources such as batteries. Notify the local Fire department or Emergency Medical Services that you have a baby dependent on medical equipment. Also notify the power company. It is wise to consider evacuation to a location with stable or emergency backup power.
5) Put together an emergency bag in advance in the event you do need to evacuate. What should you pack if you need to evacuate?
- Prescription medications (refill in advance if possible), and other medications.
- Prenatal or over-the-counter vitamins.
- Consider bringing a safe place for your baby to sleep, such as a portable crib.
- A baby carrier or sling is essential for getting around as strollers may not be of use when there is debris on the ground.
- Extra diapers and other basic medical supplies.
- Food for infants: Breastfeeding is the best food for your baby. Breast milk is naturally clean and helps protect your infant from illnesses. If you rely on pumped milk, bring a breast pump unless you know how to express milk by hand. The stress of a hurricane may affect lactating women’s milk supply, although breastfeeding can be calming for both mother and baby.
- In the rare instance that it becomes impossible to continue to breastfeed, you may consider switching to formula. If you don’t have sterile water, use pre-prepared formula. Do not use water treated with iodine or chlorine tablets to prepare powdered formula. Unused formula cannot be refrigerated during a power outage, so small ready-to-use formula in single serving pouches, jars, or bottles works best. Try to bring along enough food to last 7 days. Feed your baby using a small disposable feeding spoon or cup.
- Other emergency supplies to care for an infant include:
- a thermometer;
- copies of vaccination records;
- antibacterial wipes and hand sanitizer;
- dish soap;
- two baby blankets;
- extra baby clothes and shoes for older infant;
- diapers, wipes and diaper rash cream to last 7 days;
- infant liquid pain reliever, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
6) Keep your baby warm and close for extra protection.
7) Pregnant women and new moms should do their best to eat regularly and nutritiously and stay hydrated. If you are packing food, try to include protein bars, nuts, dried fruit, and granola.
8) Do your best to get enough rest.