Irene breeds baby boom

Published 10:35 pm Thursday, September 1, 2011

As Hurricane Irene’s wind and rain tore through Suffolk, Mother Nature spawned an influx of more welcomed arrivals to the city with a group of newborn babies at Sentara Obici Hospital.

Playing to the old adage that a drop in barometric pressure causes expecting mothers to go into labor, the hospital delivered 15 babies between Friday evening and Sunday morning, compared to the average three or four born on a usual day.

Miranda Powell, a unit manager at Obici Women’s Center, said scientists argue there’s no evidence barometric pressure has anything to do with labors, but delivery nurses beg to differ.

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“If you asked any experienced labor and delivery nurse, she’ll tell you there’s truth to it,” she said. “Some people say it’s just the anxiety before the storm, but any experienced nurse will tell you with a drop in barometric pressure, we’re going to be busy.”

Hattie Boone, the director of the Women’s Center, said delivery room employees believe the same to be true about nights with full moons.

“We know that with the full moon that we’re going to have a lot of babies,” she said.

Whether it’s the anxiety about bad weather or the weather itself, Powell said, expecting mothers are worried before a major storm.

Prior to Irene’s arrival, mommies-to-be flooded the Women’s Center with calls, asking about the hospital’s storm preparations.

Powell said they mostly wanted to know the hospital would be ready for them if they went into labor. She assured them the unit makes a lot of preparations to ensure the best patient care.

“I think they have a vision of it being completely dark in the hospital (during their labors),” she said.

To ease their concerns, extra workers came into the hospital for the duration of the storm, in addition to representatives from the offices of doctors who had patients at risk of going into labor.

Also, Powell and the other unit managers spent 24 hours in the hospital during the storm, just in case of an emergency.

Powell said the busiest hours were before and after the worst of the storm, but one mother delivered her new baby during the thick of the hurricane.

Powell was at Obici when Hurricane Isabel roared through the area, and she said the Women’s Center saw a similar increase in births.

But unlike the 2003 storm, Irene didn’t inspire any of the mothers to name their daughters after the cyclone.

“We had Isabels, but we didn’t have any Irenes,” Powell said.