Information for Pregnant Women
Preparing for Emergency Birth
Many childbirth education classes cover emergency birth procedures, with special attention to local resources.
- Work with your health care provide to learn the signs of early labor or other indications that may require assistance
- Take a class on infant and child life support, offered by the American Red Cross or the American Heart Association
- Have a kit of emergency supplies in your home; such as, clean towels, sheets, clean scissors, sterile gloves, sanitary pads, diapers, and instructions for infant-rescue breathing
- Learn more about preparing for an emergency birth from the American College of Nurse-Midwives*
Preparing for an Emergency or Disaster
Find out what your local community action plan is, and what they recommend you do in an emergency situation. Every disaster is different and may require you to respond differently. (i.e., Do I evacuate? How should I evacuate? What is the nearest evacuation route? What if they tell me to stay at home or "shelter-in-place?")
Talk to your health care provider about—
- What you should do in any emergency.
- Where you will get prenatal care.
- Where you will deliver your baby if your hospital is closed.
- Make a back-up plan for getting to the hospital or health care center.
- Make an emergency plan.
- Plan the steps you should take during an emergency. Ask your local American Red Cross for information on what they suggest every family prepare to do. Then develop your own plan, writing down the steps on paper.
- Talk about potential disasters and emergencies and how to respond to each using your family plan. Choose a meeting place, other than your home, for family to gather in case you can't go home.
- Give this emergency plan to all your family members. Have a family talk and give them a copy. Leave a copy in a prominent place in case other adults (e.g., babysitters) are in your home during an emergency.
- Choose someone outside your home who can be an "emergency check-in" person in case someone cannot reach you or your family. Keep this person's telephone number and address with your plan and first aid kit. Give this number to friends and family members, including any children.
- Keep emergency supplies in your home to meet your family needs for at least three days. This includes the following:
- Water. Each person needs 1 gallon of water each day.
- Food. Store canned foods such as soups, beans, vegetables, fruit and juices, peanut butter, etc. Keep a non-electric can opener ready. If you have pets, stock up on dry or canned pet food.
- Personal-care. Store soap, toothpaste, contact lens solution, feminine hygiene products, nursing pads, clothes, etc.
- Baby care. The CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend breastfeeding for optimal infant nutrition. Breastfeeding remains the best infant feeding option in a natural disaster situation. Even when experiencing diarrhea, food-borne illness, or extreme stress, breastfeeding mothers continue to produce ample milk for their babies. Also store baby supplies such as diapers, wipes, baby food, bottles, etc.
- First aid kit that is custom-made for your family and the risks that you might encounter.
- Other supplies. Make sure you have large plastic bags that seal for water-proofing important papers, a battery-powered flashlight and radio with extra batteries or a wind-up radio, and a first-aid kit.
- If you cannot afford some of these items, ask for assistance from local emergency preparedness programs.
- Gather important documents and information
- Make copies of important records you need to prove your identity and that of family members.
- Know what financial papers or items you will need and how to keep them safe (e.g., cash, ATM/EBT card, traveler's checks, long distance telephone cards, credit cards, checks).
- Keep important contact information, toll-free numbers, and Web sites together so you can learn about the status of the disaster, know where to get assistance, identify maternal and infant health resources, hospitals, etc.
- Put "ICE" (In Case of Emergency) before important numbers on portable and cell phones. This helps emergency workers find the right person to contact in case of emergencies.
- Take every emergency or weather warning (e.g., tornado horn or severe weather alert) seriously. Use these alerts to test your family's emergency evacuation plan, equipment, and supplies (e.g., expiration dates, etc.).
- Be prepared to go quickly and have your emergency supplies and other important items ready to go — you may not have much time. Take as much as you can with you.
Take important documents with you. This includes the following:
- Identification for you and your children; such as, birth certificates, social security cards, and immigration papers.
- Family medical records, including prenatal records and immunization records.
- Health insurance identification cards for you and anyone who depends on you for care.
- A copy of a school record for each child (to prove your child's enrollment in a specific grade.)
- Bring funds in the form of cash, ATM/EBT cards, traveler's checks, credit cards, or checkbooks.
- Bring your cell phone and charger and the "emergency check-in" number for family members to call.
- Bring keys to anything that is left behind—your home, car, bank box, post office box.
- Bring prenatal vitamins and medicines with you. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines you may need for yourself, family, and children.
- If you are not pregnant, but using contraceptives, ask for several months' supply from a healthcare provider.
Staying in a Shelter or Place Other Than Your Home
- Tell the staff at the shelter or temporary housing you are pregnant or if you think you might be pregnant.
- Continue your prenatal care—even with a different provider.
- Tell the health care providers about any special needs or health problems that you have, as well as any medicines you might be taking (both over-the-counter and prescription).
- Do not take any medicines without consultation with a health care provider first.
- Tell the staff at the shelter if you have young children or elderly family that have special needs or may require more attention.
During and Just After a Disaster
- Drink plenty of water and rest often.
- Make sure your baby gets plenty of breast milk or formula.
- Seek prenatal care even if it is not with your usual provider.
- Make sure health care providers know about any special needs or health problems that you have, as well as any medicines you might be taking (both over- the-counter and prescription).
- If checking into a shelter or temporary housing, tell the staff you are pregnant or if you think you might be pregnant. Tell the staff if you know of any special needs or health problems you or your family have.
- If you have your prenatal vitamins or other medicines with you, take them as directed. If your young infant needs prescription or over-the-counter medicine, and you have them, give them as directed.
- If you don't have your prescription medicines with you, ask staff at the shelter for assistance in getting them.
- If you are pregnant or might be pregnant, be especially careful to avoid infections or toxins that may be in the environment. You can lessen the chance of getting an infection by washing your hands often and encouraging others to cover their coughs.
- Preparing for and recovering from a disaster can be stressful. You may be taking care of loved ones, but it is especially important for pregnant women to find healthy ways to reduce the stress they feel. If you are feeling stressed or sad because of the disaster, talk to others and share your thoughts and feelings… know you are not alone.
- If you have any signs of preterm labor, call your health care provider or 911 or go to the hospital immediately.
Recovering After a Disaster
Have you been displaced by a disaster? Do you need to locate friends or family displaced by a disaster? These resources can help you communicate with loved ones:
- Visit National Emergency Family Registry and Locator System (FEMA), or call 1-800-588-9822
- Visit Providing Safe and Well Information, American Red Cross
The effects of a disaster can range from minor to devastating. Before, during, or after the event people might be forced to leave their homes. It can be a scary and stressful time, especially for pregnant women. A person's response to a traumatic event may vary. Women, who are often the caretakers of the family, are at risk for depression, due to grief over lost family members, friends, and material possessions. Pregnant women are even more vulnerable.
Women are encouraged to seek mental health services, and access other services set up to help them through agencies; such as, Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA), WIC, Red Cross, March of Dimes, La Leche League International, etc. Local organizations, including churches and shelters, in communities can often help provide basic needs (i.e., shelter, food, water, diapers). Pregnant women are urged to talk with a health care provider, if available, about any pregnancy questions or concerns.
Women and health professionals who need additional information about the effects of exposures related to a disaster on pregnancy or breastfeeding can call the Organization of Teratology Information Specialists (OTIS) at 1-866-626-OTIS or 1-866-626-6847 or visit Hurricane-Related Pregnancy Information from the Organization of Teratology Information Specialists*
- Page last reviewed: January 31, 2014
- Page last updated: November 7, 2016
- Content source:
- CDC Emergency Risk Communication Branch (ERCB), Division of Emergency Operations (DEO), Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response (OPHPR)
- Maintained By: