Study: Hurricanes Lead to Fetal Distress

FORT COLLINS, Colo., Oct. 12 (UPI) — Infants born to women who’ve survived a hurricane face significant fetal distress risks and can experience long-term healthcare problems, a U.S. study says.

Social scientists at Colorado State University analyzed long-term health statistics of women and infants who experienced Hurricane Andrew, which swept through Miami-Dade and Broward Counties in Florida in 1992, a release from the Society for Risk Analysis said.

Their research found a woman’s exposure to the hurricane during her second trimester increased the odds of fetal distress at birth by 20 percent, and fetal distress risk increased 26 percent in third-trimester exposure.

“We observe noticeable spikes in the proportion of infants born distressed for all racial groups that correspond with the onset of Hurricane Andrew,” Sammy Zahran of the CSU department of sociology said.

Fetuses exposed to the hurricane during the first trimester of development showed no evidence of increased risk of distress, the study found.

Fetal distress, defined as a “measurable deficiency in oxygen reaching fetal tissues,” can cause long-term problems in intellectual and language development as infants grow into toddlers. Emergency planners must address pregnant women’s unique stressors and the need for prenatal care in preparations, the study said.

“When designing disaster planning initiatives, emergency managers should include representatives from groups and agencies that focus on women’s reproductive health. … Relief centers should be organized to ensure that they meet women’s needs for prenatal care,” the study concluded.

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