Hurricane Sandy Babies: Myths and Realities

PHOTO: Robyn Moreno and her husband were evacuated from lower Manhattan during Hurricane Sandy on October 29, 2012, only two weeks away from her due date.
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Robyn Moreno, due to give birth, paid little attention to Hurricane Sandy, until police circled her Battery Park City neighborhood in Lower Manhattan and ordered mandatory evacuations in anticipation of a record tidal surge.

Just before the historic storm hit New York City, the 36-year-old freelance writer and her husband had talked about taking a short vacation in the Hamptons, on Long Island's East End, before the baby arrived.

"I was looking forward to a relaxing week," said Moreno. "We fixed the nursery, and put the crib together and suddenly the big rainstorm came. Holy cow – what are we going to do? I am going to have a baby in the middle of a storm, and I live in Zone A?"

Along with Manhattan's Battery Park City, Zone A includes Coney Island in Brooklyn, Far Rockaway and Broad Channel in Queens, and other low-lying areas on Staten Island.

"We had to be prepared to have the baby," Moreno said. "I had to pack a hospital bag and a baby bag, a car seat – literally seven bags of stuff."

Having a baby in the midst of a natural disaster takes on mythical proportions in the world of medicine. Some say that the plummeting barometric pressure can trigger labor. Others say mammals instinctively forestall labor in a stressful environment.

"After delivering over 1,000 babies as an obstetrician, I can tell you that most OBs have heard the saying that storms and full moons often mean a busier day or night on labor and delivery," said Dr. Jennifer Ashton, an obstetrician in Englewood, N.J. "The theory is that a drop in barometric pressure is associated with the rupturing of the membranes of the amniotic sac, causing a pregnant woman to 'break her water.'"

Although hard scientific evidence is nonexistent, Ashton said that one retrospective study published in a midwifery journal reported a "significant increase in deliveries" in the 24 hours after a storm compared with before a storm.

"The link between weather and lunar cycles extends beyond childbirth; there are associations between migraines, other headaches and musculoskeletal pain," said Ashton.

Dr. Jacques Moritz, director of the division of gynecology at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital in Manhattan, debunks the storm theory as a myth. "Mammals in general have stress hormones that prevent them going into labor," he said. "Generally, they don't have babies when there is stress outside."

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