Transcript of Get Ready Report Podcast, episode 37

This is the American Public Health Association’s Get Ready Report, coming to you from Washington D.C. Today’s episode, “Get Ready for an Emergency with a Baby on Board,” interviews Miriam Erdosi, associate director of program services with the March of Dimes California Chapter. APHA’s Get Ready campaign and March of Dimes collaborated on six fact sheets about preparedness for pregnant women and families with infants. Erdosi is interviewed by Get Ready team member Lavanya Gupta.

Why did March of Dimes partner with APHA’s Get Ready campaign to create this fact sheet series? What is your organization’s interest in preparedness?
The March of Dimes understands that disaster preparedness agencies work to create large scale plans to rescue and provide shelter on a community-wide level. But the needs of specific populations, like pregnant women, really need to be planned for as well. So in the event of a disaster, they are prepared. Although the March of Dimes is not a disaster relief organization, we do understand and help to educate pregnant women on how to take care of themselves, and how to ensure a full term pregnancy and a healthy baby. The March of Dimes really views partnering with APHA’s Get Ready campaign as a wonderful opportunity to educate pregnant women that their needs during and after a disaster are going to be different and require a different level of preparedness to ensure that they’re healthy and the needs of their infants are met during and after a disaster.

That’s great. How important is it for pregnant women and families with infants to be prepared for disasters?
The needs of pregnant women during a disaster are really unique. If you are experiencing a normal pregnancy, the stress of a disaster may increase the risk of preterm labor, low birthweight and miscarriage. Pregnant women have special medical needs that require monthly, and in some cases, weekly prenatal checkups. If you’re pregnant and you’re experiencing high-risk pregnancy, such as multiple gestations, which is you’re carrying twins or higher — or gestational diabetes, which is diabetes that develops while pregnant. These are high-risk pregnancy situations, and preparing on the event of a disaster can help ensure that even if your prenatal care is disrupted, which is very likely in the event of a disaster, that you have the basic necessities to care for yourself and your pregnancy until your provider becomes available. The bottom line is that disasters can be a very stressful and disruptive time for families, and making sure that families are prepared and they have the recommended supplies in their disaster preparedness kit is critical to help families safe during an emergency.

What special risks are there for pregnant women during and after a disaster, such as a hurricane or earthquake?
That’s a great question. So, the biggest risk for pregnant women during a disaster is really the risk of delivering your baby during and/or after a disaster strikes. So, knowing the signs of pre-term labor is really going to be critically important. It’s important for all pregnant women, regardless of a disaster to know the signs and symptoms of pre-term labor. But as we know, a full term pregnancy is between 39 and 40 weeks. So, preterm labor is any labor that begins before 37 weeks of pregnancy. And some of those symptoms include contractions that make your belly tighten up like a fist every ten minutes or more often; change in the color of your vaginal discharge or bleeding from you vagina; the feeling that your baby is pushing down, which we call pelvic pressure; a low, dull back ache and/or cramps that feel like your period; and belly cramps with or without diarrhea. These are all the signs and symptoms of preterm labor, and if a pregnant woman, especially during disasters, is experiencing these, they need to get to an emergency shelter and/or get on the phone to 911 as soon as possible. Again, all pregnant women, regardless of a disaster, should know these signs and symptoms. Pregnant women should also discuss an alternative birth location with their provider should the hospital they were planning on delivering at is not accessible after a disaster, which is very plausible as well. In the high likelihood that a pregnant woman should become displaced or have to take emergency shelter, she should absolutely have a copy of her prenatal care record kept in her emergency disaster kit with her and inform shelter officials upon arrival that she is pregnant.

What about families with infants? What should parents and caregivers look out for?
So, when you think about a disaster preparedness kit and you’re pregnant, or you’re a young family with a young infant, just think about what it would be like to not have access to anything that your infant needs to be fed, safe and comfortable. Anticipating your infant’s needs and preparing a disaster kit ahead of time is really important. The March of Dimes along with APHA’s Get Ready campaign have designed specific fact sheets for creating a disaster kit for pregnant women and families with infants, which includes making sure that you have important items for your infant such as ready to feed formula to last up to seven days in the event that breastfeeding is not an option, extra baby blankets on the event that you don’t have electricity, diapers, wipes, diaper rash cream to last up to seven day. Don’t forget — if you have a walking toddler — shoes for an older infant to protect their feet from debris and broken glass. And if you need to walk a long distance to safety, you’re going to want to have an extra baby sling or a carrier on the event that you need to hold your infant for a longer period of time.

Everyone should have at least three days of food and water in their emergency stockpile, as well as basic first aid, batteries and flashlights. Do pregnant women and families with infants need to keep special supplies in their disaster kits? If so, what are some of the most important things they need?
The needs of pregnant women and families of infants are going to look different in the event of a disaster. Pregnant women should really, really have a copy or a portable version of their prenatal medical record, in the very likely event that her prenatal care with her regular provider is disrupted. It is recommended that pregnant women have their prenatal vitamins and any other medication in her disaster preparedness kit. Also a supply of nutritious food such as protein bars, nuts and dried fruit, plenty of extra bottled water, maternity clothes and baby clothes. Although breastfeeding is recommended for several reasons after a disaster, if breastfeeding is simply not an option, families of infants at home should have ready-to-feed formula that does not require water to prepare, to last up to seven days in a disaster kit, as well as up to seven days worth of diapers, wipes, and diaper rash cream for their infants.

You mentioned the key signs of (preterm) labor, and although most women have an idea of where they will give birth, sometimes they can go into labor when they least expect it. What can pregnant mothers do to prepare themselves to give birth during or after a disaster, especially if a doctor is not present or if a health facility is not accessible?
A disaster preparedness kit should include a set of emergency birth supplies for all pregnant women on the event that labor occurs during or immediately after a disaster strikes. These emergency birth supplies should include clean towels; sharpened clean scissors to cut the umbilical cord; infant bulb syringe, which is going to be able to suck the umbilical fluid out of the baby’s mouth and nose; two white shoelaces to help tie the umbilical cord; sterile gloves; sheets; and sanitary pads. Pregnant women should also keep a set of baby clothes and at least two baby blankets in their emergency kit for post-delivery for that baby.

That’s great. If there were one thing you’d want pregnant women to know about preparing for disasters, what would it be?
Well, really to just be that — just to prepare ahead of time. Especially if you live in a region of the country that is prone to a particular — in some cases more than one — type of natural disaster, or emergency in that regard. We’ve seen so much activity and loss of life just these past two days in Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas with these horrible tornadoes. I know that southern California has absolutely seen an uptick in earthquake activity. So I feel this collaboration with APHA’s Get Ready campaign with March of Dimes is so timely, because if we can get the information out and the education out to pregnant women and families with young children to be prepared, they’re going to be better off in the event of a disaster. Just think of it this way: You wouldn’t bring your newborn home from the hospital without having at least the minimal of supplies in your home to keep them safe and cared for. So it’s really the same logic applied here. Being prepared can help control the stress of an already stressful situation and keep your family going until life returns to normal following an emergency or disaster.

That’s a great way to drive that point home. I think it’s especially important to note that you should really be aware of what kind of situations you would be prone to based on the area that you live in, so that’s great.
Absolutely.

Mother’s Day is a great opportunity to raise awareness of issues that affect mothers and their babies. How can this new information from Get Ready and March of Dimes be used this Mother’s Day?    
If you’re pregnant this Mother’s Day or caring for an infant at home, take the opportunity to educate yourself on how to prepare your family on the event of a disaster. I highly recommend that all pregnant women and families with young children visit marchofdimes.com and APHAGetReady.org to find out what you need to prepare for a disaster and take steps to ensure a healthy pregnancy and ways to keep your families safe and prepared.

Thank you for tuning in to today’s podcast. For these fact sheets and other resources from the Get Ready Campaign, visit www.aphagetready.org. To learn more about March of Dimes, visit http://www.marchofdimes.com/

Line

Check out our fact sheets for pregnant women and families with infants

Our fact sheet series from APHA's Get Ready campaign and the March of Dimes provides basic, easy-to-read information on what pregnant women and families with infants need to know before, during and after a disaster or other emergency. Check out our page for pregnant women and families with infants to read, print and share these resources.

Listen to this episode of the Get Ready Report

Return to the Get Ready Report podcast home page

Posted: May 4, 2014