Committee Opinion: Preparing for Disasters: Perspectives on Women
The Committee on Health Care for Underserved Women has published a Committee Opinion on Preparing for Disasters: Perspectives on Women. Emergency plans that specifically address the needs of women, infants, and children during disasters are currently underdeveloped in the United States. Pregnant women, infants, and children are adversely affected by disasters resulting in an increased number of infants with intrauterine growth restriction, low birth weight, and a small head circumference. There is an increased incidence of preterm delivery. To provide for a healthy pregnancy and delivery, pregnant women affected by disasters need to be assured of a continuation of prenatal care. Those in the third trimester should be aware of established local health care facilities that can provide prenatal care and obstetric services during a disaster. Establishing and maintaining lactation before, during, and after a disaster is important for infant nutrition. Decreasing the number of unintended pregnancies can be achieved by providing both prophylactic and emergency contraception. Women involved in disasters are also at an increased risk for sexual assault and should be provided a safe and secure environment in evacuation shelters. In addition to emergency contraception, sexual assault forensic examiners or sexual assault nurse examiners should be available for victims of sexual assault.