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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Superstorm Sandy Could Mean More Premature Births

Hurricane Katrina refugee Angela Davis cradles her newborn son Taji at a special church shelter in Baton Rouge, La. in 2010. Taji was born the day after the storm. (Haraz N. Ghanbari/AP)

The effects of Sandy will linger for months, even years. One researcher says public health officials should start planning now to help children whose mothers were pregnant with them during the storm.

A series of studies following natural disasters in such places as New Orleans and China shows expectant mothers in storm-ravaged areas were more likely to have low birth weight and pre-term babies, both of which are important indicators of a newborn’s overall health.

This means hospitals in the Northeast should be prepared for more newborns in need of higher levels of medical care.

In addition, research on seven hurricanes in North Carolina shows there can be long-lasting consequences for these children. They are more likely to struggle in school and need special education services.

Research shows early interventions can help make up for problems indicated by low birth weight or early birth. These programs could put children exposed to the hurricane before birth back on the right track.

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Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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