Hospitals ready for slew of births during Hurricane Irma

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It's no old wives' tale, as many a maternity nurse can attest: During hurricanes, expectant mothers give birth at a higher rate due to the drop in barometric pressure.

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At least two hospitals, both bookending Palm Beach County, are gearing up for a slew of Hurricane Irma babies.

“I’m thinking we might have a lot of Irmas,” said Jade Wolkind-Mohl, nurse assistant clinical manager for the maternity ward at Jupiter Medical Center.

The Jupiter hospital plans to have its maternity ward staffed before, during and immediately after Irma. So far only six mothers have pre-registered to be at the hospital to ride out the hurricane but Wolkind-Mohl expects that number to increase dramatically.

“Last year during Hurricane Matthew both our waiting rooms were full,” she said.

Click here for a list of essential hurricane plan supplies.

To ride out Irma at Jupiter Medical Center, the mother must be at 38 weeks of gestation and be pre-registered. She can bring one significant other, her own sleeping bag, pillow, and snacks.

It’s been quite the juggling act for the staff of the maternity ward at Jupiter Medical as they prepare their homes and families for the hurricane knowing they will be at the hospital delivering babies.

Brian Altschuler, vice president for ancillary operations at Boca Regional Hospital, said the hospital also will be available for an expectant mother during the hurricane.

“We are here for our community,” Altschuler said. “We are not closed. We are not evacuating. We have great plans in place.”

So why do hurricanes cause expectant mothers to go into labor?

Several studies have suggested that drops in barometric pressure can trigger the rupture of the fluid-filled amniotic sac membrane, which is the green light for baby to vacate the premises.

"It's certainly not cut-and-dried, but there is some scientific evidence that changes in pressure can contribute to membrane rupture," Dr. Jonathan Schaffir, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Ohio State University College of Medicine, told Live Science for a 2012 article

“The idea behind this belief is that the amniotic sac is like a balloon, and if you lower the external pressure on it, there is an increased risk it can ‘pop,’” Schaffir said.