Emergency Preparedness, Natural Disasters, and Pregnancy

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Emergency Preparedness, Natural Disasters, and Pregnancy

A few hours ago I received the news that a dear friend went into labor, and should give birth to her first child sometime today. This is a moment of great joy for me, but it also got me thinking about pregnancy and how it affects disaster plans. She lives in another state, so I can’t be with her today, but I can put some thoughts on paper about how to incorporate pregnancy—and even childbirth—into your emergency planning.

Fortunately for all of us, a great deal has been written on the subject. Everyone from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists to the March of Dimes to the Center for Disease Control has published information about pregnancy, childbirth, and natural disasters. While I do recommend taking a look at their work if you have the time, I’ll condense the important points here.

Cover the basics first.

Make sure that you have emergency kits for both your home and vehicles, and that you’re prepared for an evacuation if necessary. Also make sure that you’ve got a family emergency plan in place and well practiced. Have additional food for both mother and child—they may need more than you think!

Talk to your doctor or other health care provider about how to handle an emergency childbirth.

They can give you medically accurate information based on your individual condition, and maybe even refer you to a childbirth education class. Many such classes will teach you how to handle a labor and delivery if you can’t make it to the hospital. Again, proper training is a must.

While you’re at it take a class on infant and child first aid, including CPR.

The ever-helpful Red Cross offers them, and those are must-have skills for any parent or parent to be. Older children might also benefit from a first aid class, so consider making them part of your plans.

Have a way to carry your new baby.

If a disaster strikes and you need to evacuate, this will make things much easier. Slings are highly recommended, but make sure you know how to use one safely.

Take a breastfeeding course.

I won’t weigh into the debate around the pros and cons of breastfeeding as a regular practice, but in an emergency it offers a ready supply of safe, clean, nutritious food for your newborn. Every source I consulted in researching this article was firm on this point: during an emergency or evacuation this may be the only way you have of feeding your child. Learn how to do it effectively.

Keep an eye out for postpartum depression.

Pregnancy and childbirth can be stressful, and postpartum depression—the “baby blues”–is all too common. Do some reading now and learn about this condition, its signs and symptoms, and what you can do to mitigate the effects. Dealing with an emergency or disaster and a new baby can prove overwhelming for anyone, increasing the risk of this condition.

Above all else, remember this: the female body is tough. It is designed to survive, to ensure that its offspring survive, and women throughout history have done both under the most trying of circumstances. With a little advanced preparation and the right plan, you can help ensure that you’ll do so, too.