Challenges posed by pregnant patients in a disaster or Mass Casualty Incident (MCI) situation
Disasters can take many forms; hurricanes, tornados, tropical storms, wildfires, cyber attacks, chemical threats, drought and civil unrest. Pregnant women who find themselves in these snares present unique challenges for those involved in disaster medicine management due to the nature of their present condition. During such a period, medical practitioners keen on managing these situations proceed with caution to ensure that both mother and child are safe. The purpose of this research paper is to discuss the various challenges that pregnant patients pose during Disaster and Mass Casualty Incident (MCI) situation
The care required by pregnant patients during disasters differs greatly from that of others due to the physiological and anatomic changes that can affect fetal welfare. During disasters, pregnant patients further away from their health care providers, but close to their due date, may experience anxiety or panic attacks leading to pregnancy complications. Such a patient might be caught up in a far flung locality, cut-off from access to health care relief assistance, making it extremely difficult for those managing this disaster to reach them (Rodrg̕uez, Quarantelli, & Dynes, 2009, p. 602). A case in point is during flooding as access to these patients becomes virtually impossible, especially when the health care providers are ill-equipped.
During disasters the most common means of communication cease to be operational, a phenomenon attributed to destroyed power grids. For pregnant patients whose option was to stay at home and only get the pre-natal care when necessary, a communication barrier emerges immediately(“Caring for your family in a disaster | March of Dimes,” n.d.). Medical practitioners thus find it challenging to check up on their patients in order to ascertain their prevailing conditions. Patients that lack extensive knowledge on how to handle a high-stress situation might miss out on the much-needed pieces of advice from their health care providers that might prove useful in saving both lives.
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Preterm labor is a challenge that most disaster medical management practitioners brace themselves for during calamities. It occurs before the completion of the first 37 weeks of pregnancy and can be further execrated by disaster (“Caring for your family in a disaster | March of Dimes,” n.d.). Trauma is one of the main culprits here due to the rise in serotonin levels (stress hormone) in the patient’s blood. I such individuals do are not given immediate health care or are in a hospital that lacks Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) plan, the patient is likely to lose the newborn.
The nutrition of pregnant patients is of utmost importance to the healthcare providers as it ensures that both mother and fetus are in top shape. During disasters, a power surge might lead to the spoilage of the much-needed food that had been refrigerated. Cooking also becomes a difficult task due to the disruptions that have been experienced. Moreover, drinking water directly from a faucet can be detrimental to the health of a pregnant patient as it might be contaminated (Ewing, Buchholtz, & Rotanz, 2008, p. 99). During such situations, medical practitioners have to ensure that they take care of their pregnant patients by proving treated water by any means possible in the face of difficult circumstances.
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Disasters may also create a state of total pandemonium and confusion. Mothers might be separated from their newborn children and doctors from their patients. Such was the case during Hurricane Katrina that struck the state of Louisiana. Medical practitioners found it challenging to deal with the influx of patients to their facilities without medical records. Furthermore, these patients could end up in facilities that lacked gynecologists, obstetricians or midwives exposing them to the risk of infant deaths, premature births, and low-birth-weight among the newborn babies (“Group Urges Disaster Planning for Pregnant Women, Babies,” n.d.). Healthcare providers also lacked the specific medication necessary for treating pregnant patients and vitamin supplements required to ensure that both mother and infant are healthy.
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