SAYREVILLE, NJ - The 2016 Atlantic hurricane season is expected to be the most active since 2012, when New Jersey experienced Hurricane Sandy. With hurricane season just beginning, the March of Dimes urges pregnant women and parents of new babies to be prepared for future emergencies, long term power outages or the need to evacuate from their homes. Pregnant women evacuating their homes in advance of an emergency should be sure to bring their medication, including their prenatal vitamins, as well as their medical records and their health care providers’ emergency contact number.

“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,” said Laurie Navin, Maternal & Child Health Director, New Jersey, 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 may need to evacuate quickly.

The March of Dimes chapters and its web site (marchofdimes.org) are good sources of information for pregnant women. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (www.cdc.gov) also offers important information about preparing for a hurricane. Additional resources can be found at http://www.state.nj.us/njoem/.

While pregnant women should follow the general hurricane preparedness recommendations, they and new mothers also should take special precautions for themselves and their children. Having a copy of your medical records and knowing how to contact your health care provider can help if a pregnant woman must visit another provider during the evacuation period. Wear comfortable shoes and remember that maternity clothes may not be available if you evacuate. Pack extra clothes.

Also, have bottled water and non-perishable food supplies on hand. Try to stock food that is high in protein and low in fat.

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. They 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.

March of Dimes Emergency Preparedness Tips for Pregnant Women and New Parents

1) Pregnant women should know the signs labor and if they experience any of these symptoms, 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 a supply of over-the-counter vitamins), a copy of prenatal medical records including medical provider contact information, and 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 disaster or emergency 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 drink plenty of water. They also should do their best to get enough sleep and to rest quietly (lying down with feet up) for a few minutes several times a day.