Pregnancy is supposed to be a happy time and most parents-to-be already have enough on their plate without having to worry about disaster preparedness.
However, we don’t get to pick when disasters occur. As a pregnant woman, you are more vulnerable to disasters and should take extra steps to prepare for disasters during pregnancy.
Stress isn’t something that gets talked about with disaster preparedness during pregnancy.
However, as the March of Dimes points out,
Stress can lead to preterm labor, and what’s more stressful than a disaster?
I personally believe the best way to prevent stress is to be prepared. If you have all the supplies you need packed, a plan in place, and a support network, you won’t be so stressed out during whatever disaster happens to strike.
Don’t just stop with the preparedness advice in this guide. Get completely prepared by:
- Learning mental preparedness techniques
- Improving first aid skills
- Stockpiling emergency supplies
- Practicing disaster preparedness
Food Preparedness during Pregnancy
During the 2nd and 3rd trimesters, a pregnant woman needs 350 to 500 more calories per day than usual. To be adequately prepared, you’ll need to stockpile extra food.
You can’t really be too picky about food during a disaster. However, bear in mind that pregnant women can develop intense food aversions. I personally had really bad morning sickness with two of my kids. During the first trimester, I could only keep down toast and crackers!
Simply looking at one of those camping meals would have sent me into a vomiting fit. If I’m ever pregnant again, I’ll make sure to upgrade my emergency food supplies to include more morning sickness-friendly foods.
Emergency Water during Pregnancy
When preparing for a disaster, assume that there will be no tap water coming into your home. You should stockpile emergency water to meet your needs.
The standard recommendation is at least one gallon of water per person, per day. That amount is meant to be for drinking and for sanitation and cooking. For those of us not used to conserving water, this amount will probably be inadequate. It is better to aim for 2+ gallons per per, per day for 30 days or at least 60 gallons per person.
Bear in mind that you will need safe water for washing the baby after emergency childbirth. If a boil alert is in place or you fear contamination, you’ll need to treat the water first. It takes a full tub of water to wash a newborn plus much more to clean up after delivery, so calculate to have at least 5-10 extra gallons of water on hand.
This waterBOB is an ideal way to store extra water in the bathtub, very east to use , holds 100 gallons and highly rated on Amazon.
Water Treatment Methods and Pregnancy
There are many different types of water treatment methods. No single method is “perfect.” For example, boiling does a great job of killing bacteria, protozoa, and viruses – but it won’t remove chemicals.
Read this Guide to Storing and Treating Water to understand which option is best for you.
It is important to know that some water treatment methods are NOT safe for pregnant women.
- Iodine Tablets: While iodine is necessary for pregnant women, too much iodine can be dangerous. Do not purify water with iodine tablets.
- Chlorine: You can use chlorine bleach to purify water. However, it is NOT recommended for pregnant women because of risk of birth defects associated with chlorine. (Source)
Emergency Birth Plan
While many women are now choosing to give birth at home, no one wants to have to do a home birth. As mothers-to-be, we know about the risks of hemorrhaging, infections, and even stroke from eclampsia — plus all of the potential risks to the baby. It’s comforting to know that there’s a hospital nearby.
Ideally, you would never have to do an emergency birth on your own. Good midwives are educated about emergency preparedness and have plans on how to access their patients during disasters.
I particularly love the story of this hurricane hero who rode through floodwater on an inflatable raft to reach a patient!
Ask your midwife or health care provider about:
- The signs of early labor
- Where to go if you start labor during an emergency
- Who to contact
- How to handle an emergency childbirth
- Courses to prepare you for emergency childbirth
Emergency Birth Instructions
Here are some very thorough and useful resources about how to give birth on your own in emergency situations. I'd also advise you and your partner to watch lots of videos of home births so you can get accustomed to the (bloody and painful) experience of childbirth. This is crucial for mental preparedness!
- Giving Birth in Place Guide to Emergency Preparedness for Childbirth (PDF)
- Emergency Preparedness for Childbirth Guide by Midwife.org (PDF)
- Guide to Coping with Labor Pain (PDF)
Emergency Childbirth Supplies
- Clean towels and sheets
- Waterproof sheets or pads
- Bowl for collecting the placenta
- Disposable gloves
- Two sealable bags for the placenta
- Trash bags
For the Baby:
- Instructions for infant-rescue breathing
- Newborn cap
- Hot water bottle for warmth
- Suction bulb
- Receiving blankets
- 4 bath towels
- Large package of cotton balls
For the Mother:
- Cold packs
- Heavy-duty sanitary pads or adult diapers (there will be a lot of blood!)
For Cutting the Umbilical Cord:
- Cord clamps or white shoelace that has been sterilized and wrapped in a plastic glove to keep it sterile
- Sharp sterile scissors or blade
- Alcohol wipes or bottle of isopropyl alcohol plus cotton swabs
Disease Prevention and Safety during Disasters
Pregnant women are particularly susceptible to certain diseases because of changes to their immunity. Even issues which are normally benign – such as a mild infection or fever – can be disastrous to the growing baby.
Don’t ignore the risk of disease after a disaster. You must take steps to protect yourself and your developing baby!
Two important steps you can take are:
- Wear a Face Mask: In disasters where chemicals might be in the air (such as the airborne asbestos and other toxic materials after 911), you must wear a face mask. Read this Guide to Emergency Face Masks.
- Protect Against Mosquitos: As the CDC warns, hurricanes and flooding can result in an increase of mosquitoes. These can spread Zika virus or West Nile virus. Protect yourself by wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants, using EPA-registered insect repellents, and removing any standing water.
Building an Emergency Support Team
Not everyone has an awesome midwife who is willing to risk his or her life to help a patient during emergencies. However, you probably have more help around you than you realize.
Get to know your neighbors and their professional backgrounds. There is probably at least one doctor, nurse, midwife, or doula in your neighborhood. Talk to them about your emergency plans and find out who would be willing (and able) to help in a disaster.
Do you have an emergency plan in place for pregnancy? Let us know what you are doing to prep!