Irene and Pregnant: When the Stork Comes at Hurricane Force

Pregnant women due during hurricane should heed warnings, experts say.

Aug. 26, 2011— -- Danielle Tate of Elkins Park, Pa., is in labor. Like, right now, as Irene barrels north toward her.

Originally scheduled to be induced on Sunday, doctors rescheduled her induction to Monday because of the hurricane. But the baby had its own plans when Tate began experiencing contractions 5 to 6 minutes apart Friday morning.

Doctors told her to wait until the contractions were 4 minutes apart before she came to the hospital.

"I want to get this show on the road," said Tate from the waiting room. "I'm hoping they'll just keep me now, but they're going to do a contraction stress test to see if I stay or go back home."

Tate had to cut the interview short after being called into the doctor's office.

Jessica Blaszczak, of Arlington, Va., is due Sunday. Irene is expected to hit Virginia Saturday.

"It's the lack of control on so many levels that makes everything a little scary," said Blaszczak. "I'm not a control freak by any means, but I'm nine months pregnant in a hurricane. If he came Friday or Monday, that'd be great."

"An epidural is in my birth plan," said Blaszczak, 35. "A hurricane is not."

As Hurricane Irene begins to pummel the East Coast, experts are advising pregnant women close to their due date to take extra caution. Women affected by disasters need to be aware of local health care facilities that can provide prenatal and obstetrics care during a disaster or evacuation, said the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

"I would recommend that physicians contact their patients, encourage them to develop an evacuation plan, and give them a copy of their medical record that is pertinent to their pregnancy problems," said Dr. Veronican Gillispie, an ObGyn at Ochsner Clinic Foundation in New Orleans.

If a woman does need to evacuate, she should be sure that, along with her medical information in hand, she has an extra supply of any medications or prenatal vitamins she is taking for the duration of the evacuation.

Gillispie was a resident physician at Ochsner Clinic Foundation during Hurricane Katrina, where she watched women "who had given birth in the water from outside, but they were coming in to the hospital because their placenta was still inside."

"They were coming in by boat or trying to flag down helicopters," she said. "It was so chaotic."

Hurricane Irene Triggers Safety Advisories for Pregnant Women

After witnessing such devastation, Gillispie authored the 2010 report, "Preparing for Disasters: Perspectives on Women."

Women who experienced trauma during Hurricane Katrina were found to have higher rates of low birth weight infants and preterm deliveries, according to Gillispie's report.

To avoid such dangers, experts recommend women near their due date have an emergency birth kit, which contains several basic items, including sterile lubricant, sterile scissors, a syringe, sanitary pads, peroxide, a neonatal thermometer and battery powered radio with extra batteries.

Dr. Rahit Mishori, director of Global Health Initiatives at Georgetown University School of Medicine, tried to ease some concerns.

"Most women don't deliver on their due dates," she said. "Even if labor starts, it often takes hours to progress, and the acute event may be over, so no need to panic. If you do go into labor, you may want to call EMS rather than drive to the hospital yourself."

As for Blaszczak, she has her own plan if she goes into labor during the hurricane.

"We ... have a kayak in the front yard," said Blaszczak. "Our Plan B is to paddle to the hospital if the ambulance takes too long."

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