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Add early labor to hurricane concerns

By Times Staff Writer
Published June 11, 2007


Flooded streets, power outages, spoiled refrigerator contents and the risk of damage to the house.

There are enough things to dread each hurricane season without the prospect of early labor.

But as an expectant mom in Florida, it's something to consider. My due date, Sept. 23, falls in the tail-end of the hurricane season, when the nastiest storms tend to emerge. And there's an intriguing theory out there that it's the storms - not the storks - that bring babies.

Here's how the theory goes: Hurricanes, of course, are powerful low-pressure systems. When a storm blows in, the falling atmospheric pressure tugs at the amniotic sac of the mother-to-be. Her water breaks. Labor begins.

So as the winds are howling and tree branches are pelting the house and snapped power lines are dancing in the waterlogged streets, you find yourself turning to hubby to say, "It's time."

Some doctors and hospitals urge women in the final stretch of their pregnancy - 36 weeks and beyond - to ride out the storm at the hospital, just in case. But there's conflicting evidence on whether this hurricane-labor phenomenon actually exists, according to the Wall Street Journal.

A study done at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital in Houston found "significantly more occurrences" of labor starting in the 24 hours after a drop in barometric pressure, compared to the previous day.

But another study by the University of Massachusetts Medical School found "no association" between low-pressure days and the onset of labor.

Then again, that's Massachusetts. What do they know about hurricanes?

I asked my doctor, who said yes, changes in barometric pressure can affect labor. But she urged a common-sense approach. If a storm is coming, she said, "Do what you would normally do, " as far as preparations. If contractions start, call the doctor's office or the hospital for further instructions.

By way of reassurance, she noted one of the doctors in her practice rides out each storm at the affiliated hospital, Helen Ellis Memorial Hospital in Tarpon Springs. And she said the hospital is storm-hearty and nicely elevated.

Still, I'm hoping - as we all are - for a nice, quiet hurricane season.

* * *

Speaking of dread, it was with a tone of foreboding that people used to tell me, "Just wait until Toby starts walking." Meaning: He's going to get into everything, you're going to have to chase him around, and it's going to drive you crazy.

Well, Toby, now 20 months old, has been walking for just over a month now, and I couldn't be happier. He's cruising everywhere: seeking out stuff to play with, bringing forth books he wants to read, fetching his shoes so we can go somewhere.

He's just tickled with his newfound independence. So am I.

It's not just that it was killing my back to carry him everywhere (although it was). Now that he can seek out what he wants to do, I get to see what makes this kid tick, and it's such a joy to see his personality emerge.

He likes to stash his favorite yellow-circle block in obscure places for safekeeping. He likes to poke his head around the door to play peek-a-boo. He wants to help me move the laundry (sometimes onto the floor) and empty the dishwasher (even when the dishes are dirty). And he never tires of flipping through the colorful adventures of brown bears, busy spiders and very hungry caterpillars.

While he does fling the occasional block or wooden puzzle piece (Toby's developing his pitching arm, my husband insists), he's not a human wrecking ball. He is curious and playful and loves nothing more than to curl up with a good book.

That's my kind of kid.

[Last modified June 11, 2007, 07:12:50]

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