Hurricanes Linked to Raised 'Fetal Distress'
MONDAY, Oct. 18 (HealthDay News) -- Exposure to hurricanes while
still in the womb may increase risk of fetal distress, which can
cause long-range health problems after birth, new research
Fetal distress, which results from too little oxygen reaching
fetal tissues, can impair intellectual and language development,
and perhaps even put these children at increased risk of
schizophrenia, the researchers noted.
Their conclusions are based on data involving mothers and
infants who were in the line of Hurricane Andrew when it hit
Florida's Miami-Dade and Broward counties in 1992.
"We observe noticeable spikes in the proportion of infants born distressed for all racial groups that correspond with the onset of Hurricane Andrew," study co-author Sammy Zahran, from Colorado State University's Center for Disaster and Risk Analysis, said in a news release from the Society for Risk Analysis.
The study is reported in the October issue of
To investigate how hurricane-related stress might affect a
child, the authors compared data concerning hurricane-hit regions
of the state with data from other Floridian counties that escaped
Babies who had been exposed in utero to the hurricane during the
first trimester did not go on to display any signs of fetal
distress, they found.
However, hurricane exposure during the second trimester provoked
a 20 percent rise in fetal distress at birth. A rise in risk of 26
percent was observed among those exposed during the third
trimester, according to the study.
Race also played a role, the researchers found. Black newborns
exposed to the hurricane during the third trimester were 45 percent
more likely to experience fetal distress, they noted.
These risks add to the human and economic cost of severe
hurricanes, the authors said.
Based on the findings, the authors suggest that expectant
mothers be prioritized for evacuation in the face of an impending
"When designing disaster planning initiatives, emergency managers should include representatives from groups and agencies that focus on women's reproductive health," the authors noted in their report. "Relief centers should be organized to ensure that they meet women's needs for prenatal care."
For more on fetal distress and monitoring, visit the
U.S. National Institutes of Health.
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