Storm Stress in the Womb: How Hurricanes Heighten Health Risks for Newborns

The destruction left behind by hurricanes and tropical storms is all too familiar. What may not be as obvious are the effects these severe weather events have on expectant mothers and their unborn babies. When pregnant women experience stress during the last trimester, it can increase the likelihood of their baby being born with health issues by 60 percent. In this article, we will explore the research behind these findings and help you understand how to navigate the challenges brought on by intense weather conditions during pregnancy.

Stress and the Developing Baby

A study carried out by Princeton University researchers found that pregnant women exposed to the stress of strong storms during their third trimester are at a higher risk of giving birth to a child with health difficulties. The researchers believe that the stress brought on by experiencing extreme weather is the cause of these complications.

Janet Currie, the lead researcher of this study, states, “Probably the most important finding of our study is that it does seem like being subjected to stress in pregnancy has some negative effect on the baby, but that the effect is more subtle than some of the previous studies have suggested.”

To reach these conclusions, the study utilized data from eight hurricanes and tropical storms that hit any part of Texas between 1996 and 2008. They all caused more than $10 million in damages. Some of the most significant storms included Tropical Storm Allison, which caused over $50 billion in damages and 40 deaths, and Hurricane Ike, leading to $19.3 billion in damages and 103 fatalities.

Storm Preparation and Pregnant Women

Given the potential consequences of severe weather stress during pregnancy, it’s essential to plan effectively and stay informed. The best way for expectant mothers to mitigate risks associated with stress from extreme weather events is by adequately preparing for them. Here are some practical steps to follow:

1. Stay informed and updated

Keep tabs on the weather by regularly checking updates from local news and reliable weather sources. Sign up for alerts to stay informed about the latest developments.

2. Create a communication plan

Before a storm, devise a communication strategy with your loved ones. Assign specific responsibilities to family members and make sure everyone knows what to do in case of an emergency.

3. Prepare an emergency kit

Make a hurricane kit that includes essentials such as one gallon of water per person per day, non-perishable food, a first-aid kit, tools, blankets, and personal items. Remember to include essential items specific to your pregnancy, like prenatal vitamins, prescriptions, and maternity records.

4. Discuss an evacuation plan with your medical team

In the months leading up to your due date, talk to your medical team about their procedures during the storm. If evacuation becomes necessary, know where to go and which roads to take to reach safety. Also, keep a list of nearby hospitals and their contact information in case you need medical attention.

5. Emotional support

In addition to physical preparations, consider joining a prenatal support group to find a community of other moms-to-be going through similar experiences. Support groups can provide a safe space to share concerns and tips on handling stress during pregnancy.

6. Practice mind-body relaxation techniques

Incorporate stress-reducing practices like yoga, meditation, and deep breathing exercises into your everyday routine. Another option to consider is consulting a mental health professional for additional support and stress management techniques.


Hurricanes and tropical storms can cause immense stress for anyone in their path, but pregnant women are at a higher risk of experiencing negative repercussions on the health of their unborn children. By staying informed, prepared, and taking care of your mental and emotional well-being during these extreme weather events, expectant mothers can minimize the impact their stress will have on their babies.