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.

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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