Safety Messages For Pregnant, Postpartum, and Breastfeeding Women During Disasters

Natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods, and wildfires  can be scary and stressful, especially if you are pregnant or have a baby. Learn how to prepare using this list of things you can do before, during, and after a natural disaster to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Preparing for a Disaster
image of a couple with a small child
  • If you are pregnant, talk to your health care provider about how to get medical care if there is a natural disaster. Your doctor can help you make a plan about where you can go to get prenatal care if your doctor’s office has to close and where you can go to have a safe delivery if you can’t reach a hospital. It is important to learn the signs of labor including the signs of early labor.
  • If you might need to leave your home, know where to shelter and be prepared to leave quickly and have important items ready to go. In addition to packing your essential items and supplies, remember to bring any medicines you might be taking (both over the counter and prescription), your prenatal vitamins, and a copy of your medical records.
  • If you have a baby, plan ahead to help him or her sleep safely if you have to leave your home. Your baby is safest sleeping on his or her back in his or her own sleep area (e.g., a portable crib, bassinet) that does not have pillows, blankets, or toys. Learn more about what you can do to help babies sleep safely.
  • Stock healthy low-sodium snacks and bottled water to keep up with your nutrition needs and stay hydrated.
  • Stress can cause problems like having your baby come too soon or having a baby that is under weight. It is important to choose healthy ways to deal with your stress. Ask for help if you are feeling overwhelmed or stressed. Getting enough rest and drinking enough water can help keep you healthy and reduce stress.

 

Learn more about disaster planning for pregnant, postpartum, and breastfeeding women.

During and After a Natural Disaster

During and after a disaster, you may have strong emotions. Connecting with family, friends, and others in your community can help you cope with a natural disaster. Take care of yourself and each other, and know when and how to seek help.

Pregnant Women
image of a pregnant woman looking out the window
  • During a natural disaster, you may have to stay at a shelter or temporary housing. If you go to a shelter, tell the staff that you are pregnant so they can help you.
  • It is important that you get medical care right away if you are having signs of labor. Call your doctor or 911, or go to the hospital immediately if it is safe to leave. If you are in a shelter, tell the staff as soon as possible about your symptoms.
  • When it is safe to do so, make an appointment to continue your prenatal care, even if it is not with your usual doctor.
    • Get your vaccines, like the flu shot. Vaccination helps protect women during pregnancy and protects the baby for several months after birth. CDC recommends getting the whooping cough and flu shots during pregnancy to protect yourself and your developing baby against serious diseases. Learn more about vaccines you need before and during your pregnancy, visit https://www.cdc.gov/features/pregnant-vaccines/
  • If you do get sick, talk with a health care provider right away.
    • Explain that you are pregnant or think you might be pregnant.
    • Some infections might harm your growing baby. The sooner you get the care you need, the better.
    • While you are sick, drink plenty of clean water and follow the doctor or health care provider’s orders.
    • Drinking lots of clean water and resting is very important for all pregnant women, especially when they are sick.
  • Before you start taking any medicines, even ones that you can buy at the store, talk with a health care provider.
    • Make sure to tell the doctor or nurse that you are pregnant or might be pregnant.
    • Some medicines are not good for women to take when they are pregnant, but others are okay.
    • Continue taking your multivitamins with 400 micrograms of folic acid every day to help keep you and your unborn baby in good health.
    • If you are already taking a medicine, talk to your doctor or health care provider before stopping the medicine.
  • Follow these steps to prevent mosquito bites to reduce your risk for illnesses spread by mosquitoes.
    • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
    • Stay and sleep in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens.
    • Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents with one of the following active ingredients listed in the label: DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol, or 2-undecanone.
    • Once a week, empty and scrub, turn over, cover, or throw out items that hold water, such as trash containers, tires, buckets, toys, planters, flowerpots, birdbaths, or pools.
    • Learn more about how to prevent mosquito bites.
New Moms and Postpartum Women
image of a woman holding an infant
  • After giving birth and while breastfeeding, take special care of your body like drinking plenty of clean water and resting as often as you can.
  • Get a postpartum checkup within 6 weeks after having your baby, even if it is not with your usual doctor.
  • Get your vaccines, like the flu shot if you did not already receive it during the current flu season.
  • See a doctor or other health care provider for well-baby checkups or if you are concerned about a health problem, even if it is not with your baby’s usual doctor.
  • Postpartum depression can occur after having a baby, however, it is treatable and most women get better with treatment. If you are having emotional changes or think that you may have depressive symptoms, talk with your health care provider as soon as possible. Learn more information and tips to manage postpartum depression.
  • If you are not ready to get pregnant again, you can ask for several months’ supply of the pill, patch, or ring and you can consider using a method that last for several months like the shot. You also can ask for a longer acting method like intrauterine devices (IUDs) and implants, which can last for 3 to 10 years depending on the device. Talk with a health care provider about what birth control method is right for you.
Breastfeeding Mothers/Infant Feeding
image of a mother breastfeeding her baby
  • If you breastfeed your baby, continue to do so. Breastfeeding is recommended for best infant nutrition. Breastfeeding remains the best infant feeding option in a natural disaster situation. Learn more on how to feed your young child safely during an emergency
  • If you feed your baby with formula, use ready-to-feed formula if possible. If you prepare formula with boiled water, let the formula cool sufficiently before giving it to an infant. Put a couple drops of formula on the inside of your wrist to see if it is too hot.
  • Wash your hands before preparing formula and before feeding an infant. You can use alcohol-based hand sanitizer for sanitizing your hands if water is not available for handwashing.
  • Always clean infant feeding items with bottled, boiled, or treated water and soap before each use. If you cannot clean infant feeding supplies safely, children can lap up milk from a disposable cup, if available. Throw out bottle nipples or pacifiers that have been in contact with floodwater.
Post-disaster Safety
  • If you are pregnant or a new mom avoid hard physical work or disaster clean-up work.
  • If your home has been affected by floods, it is possible that mold may be present. If you are pregnant or have a young infant, avoid entering a building with mold damage. Learn more about mold exposure after natural disasters.
  • After stormy weather or severe flooding, avoid touching or walking in flood water.
    • If you do touch the water, make sure to use soap and clean water to wash the parts of your body that came in contact with the water.
    • Do not swallow any of the flood water and be careful to keep it away from your mouth.
    • If you feel sick in any way, talk to a doctor or nurse right away.
    • Remember to explain that you are pregnant or think you might be pregnant.
  • After a wildfire, avoid breathing smoke or fumes from recently burned buildings or houses. If you have a baby, keep him or her away from areas where there is smoke or fumes, and stay indoors if possible. Learn more about wildfires.
  • To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, do not use generators, kerosene heaters, grills, or camp stoves indoors. Carbon monoxide is a gas with no color or smell. It is a poison to you, your baby or anyone. If you breathe it, it can make you very sick. It can even kill you. Learn more about how to prevent carbon monoxide exposure.