Natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornados, 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
- 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. Search for open shelters near you by texting SHELTER and your ZIP code to 43362. Example: Shelter 01234.
- Be prepared to leave quickly and have a kit with important items ready to go. Pack your essential items and supplies, including your prescription and non-prescription medications, prenatal vitamins, and a copy of your medical records and insurance information.
- Have at least a 14-day supply of your prescription medications. Ask your healthcare provider if you can obtain a 30-day (or longer) emergency prescription refill. Some states permit coverage for extra prescription medication refills during an emergency, but laws vary by state. Learn more about Emergency Prescription Laws in your state.
- 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 their 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 safe.
- Stock healthy low-sodium snacks and bottled water to keep up with your nutrition needs and stay hydrated.
- Take care of your emotional health and practice healthy stress management. Stress can cause problems like having your baby come too soon or having a baby that is underweight. Engaging in physical activity, getting enough rest, and drinking enough water can help you reduce stress. Ask for help if you are feeling overwhelmed or stressed.
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. Know when and how to seek help.
- 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, 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 flue shot. Vaccination helps protect women during pregnancy and protects the baby for several months after. The CDC recommends getting the whooping cough and flu shots during pregnancy to protect yourself and your developing baby against serious diseases.
- 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, rest, and follow the health care provider's advice.
- 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 another medicine, talk to your health care provider before stopping that medicine or taking a new medicine.
- Follow these steps to prevent mosquito bites to reduce your risk for illnesses spread by mosquitoes.
- Cover up by wearing 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 on the label: DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-methane-diol, or 2-undecone.
- 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.
New moms and postpartum women
- 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 six 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 health care provider for well-baby checkups, even if it is not with your usual doctor.
- See a doctor or other health care provider if you are concerned about a health problem, even if it is not with you or your baby's usual doctor.
- Depression can occur during or after pregnancy, however, it is treatable, and most women get better with treatment. If you think you have depression, talk with your health care provider as soon as possible.
- 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 three 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
- If you breastfeed, continue to do so. Breastfeeding remains the best infant feeding option in a natural disaster situation. Breastfeeding is the best source of nutrition for most infants. It can also reduce the risk for certain health conditions for both infants and mothers.
- If you feed your baby with formula, use ready-to-feed formula if possible. Use bottled water to prepare powdered or concentrated formula. If bottled water is not available, boil water for one minute and let it cool before mixing with formula.
- Wash your hands before preparing formula and before feeding your baby or infant. If soap and water is not available for handwashing, you can use alcohol-based hand sanitizer for sanitizing your hands.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 health care provider right away.
- Remember to explain that you are pregnant or think you might be pregnant or have been pregnant in the past year.
- 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.
- To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, do not use generators, kerosene heaters, grills, or camp stove indoors. Carbon monoxide is a gas with no color or smell. It is a poison to you, your baby, or anyone. If you breath it, it can make you very sick. It can even kill you.
Content updated November 2, 2020