Labor is a happy, but intense event for most women and their partners. Add an event like Sandy -- the hurricane currently threatening large chunks of the Eastern Seaboard -- and the intensity kicks way up. What does this mean for these women and their safety? Does the storm in any way change what they should do?
The most important thing, said Janis Biermann, vice president for education and health promotion with the March of Dimes, is for women who think they are in labor, or who are due soon, to get and stay in touch with their health care providers. Women experiencing any of the signs of preterm labor, which can include contractions, pelvic pressure and cramps, and a dull backache, should also get in touch.
"It's always better to place the call," Biermann said, explaining women should not feel nervous about pestering their doctors. "Your provider would rather hear from you than not."
If you live in an area that is being hit particularly hard, your doctor may have special instructions.
"Women who are laboring should stay in close contact with their physician, to make sure they're ensuring enough time to get to whatever hospital they need to," said Susan Green-Lorenzen, senior vice president of operations with Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx in New York City. The hospital is staying open during the storm and has made special arrangements for fathers who may not ordinarily stay the night to do so, Green-Lorenzen said. Couples should make sure they're properly packed, she added. The Bronx hospital has also accepted five mothers and newborns from a nearby hospital that was evacuated earlier.
Overall, both pregnant women and new moms need to prepare in pretty much the same way as everyone else affected by Sandy, Biermann said, by making sure they have plenty of bottled water and nonperishable food. The March of Dimes issued a statement recommending that women have plenty of food that is high in protein and low in fat. Biermann said it is a good idea to have an emergency bag packed that includes basics like any medicines and prenatal vitamins women may be taking, as well as information about who their health care provider is, and any pertinent medical records.
And while storms like this can be particularly stressful for pregnant women -- especially those who are worried about going into labor -- Biermann said it is important to try to relax. Do some meditation, she suggested, some light yoga, or read -- anything that will help keep you from getting worked up into a really anxious state.
As for the idea that hurricanes can send women into labor? Biermann said there's not any medical evidence backing it up.
"Certainly, a very stressful situation could induce labor," she said. "But if you're sitting at home, and you've prepared, you might feel some stress, but it shouldn't be enough to send you into labor."