Hurricane Sandy Babies: Myths and Realities

Share This Story

David De Lossy/Digital Vision/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Having a baby in the midst of a natural disaster takes on mythical proportions in the world of medicine. Some say that the plummeting barometric pressure can trigger labor. Others say mammals instinctively forestall labor in a stressful environment.

“After delivering over 1,000 babies as an obstetrician, I can tell you that most OBs have heard the saying that storms and full moons often mean a busier day or night on labor and delivery,” said Dr. Jennifer Ashton, an obstetrician in Englewood, N.J. “The theory is that a drop in barometric pressure is associated with the rupturing of the membranes of the amniotic sac, causing a pregnant woman to ‘break her water.”

Although hard scientific evidence is nonexistent, Ashton said that one retrospective study published in a midwifery journal reported a “significant increase in deliveries” in the 24 hours after a storm compared with before a storm.

“The link between weather and lunar cycles extends beyond childbirth; there are associations between migraines, other headaches and musculoskeletal pain,” said Ashton.

Dr. Jacques Moritz, director of the division of gynecology at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital in Manhattan, debunks the storm theory as a myth. “Mammals in general have stress hormones that prevent them going into labor,” he said. “Generally, they don’t have babies when there is stress outside.”

But both doctors confirm conventional wisdom that nine months after an event such as Hurricane Sandy, which had been reduced to a post-tropical cyclone when it finally made landfall just south of Atlantic City, N.J., Monday evening, will result in an uptick in pregnancies.

“At the hospital, we were just saying that nine months from now business will be busier than hell,” Moritz said. “That’s probably for sure. Everybody is cooped up inside. …I would not be surprised. It happened after 9/11.”

That, too, has been upended by at least two university studies. The theory arose after New York City’s blackout on Nov. 9, 1965, when The New York Times reported “a sharp increase in births” nine months afterward.

The newspaper quoted Planned Parenthood Federation of America, which explained, “Sexuality is a very powerful force, and people would normally indulge in sex if they didn’t have anything else to do.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Respond to this story