Committee Opinion No. 726: Hospital Disaster Preparedness for Obstetricians and Facilities Providing Maternity Care

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Abstract

Large-scale catastrophic events and infectious disease outbreaks highlight the need for disaster planning at all community levels. Features unique to the obstetric population (including antepartum, intrapartum, postpartum and neonatal care) warrant special consideration in the event of a disaster. Pregnancy increases the risks of untoward outcomes from various infectious diseases. Trauma during pregnancy presents anatomic and physiologic considerations that often can require increased use of resources such as higher rates of cesarean delivery. Recent evidence suggests that floods and human-influenced environmental disasters increase the risks of spontaneous miscarriages, preterm births, and low-birth-weight infants among pregnant women. The potential surge in maternal and neonatal patient volume due to mass-casualty events, transfer of high-acuity patients, or redirection of patients because of geographic barriers presents unique challenges for obstetric care facilities. These circumstances require that facilities plan for additional increases in necessary resources and staffing. Although emergencies may be unexpected, hospitals and obstetric delivery units can prepare to implement plans that will best serve maternal and pediatric care needs when disasters occur. Clear designation of levels of maternal and neonatal care facilities, along with establishment of a regional network incorporating hospitals that provide maternity services and those that do not, will enable rapid transport of obstetric patients to the appropriate facilities, ensuring the right care at the right time. Using common terminology for triage and transfer and advanced knowledge of regionalization and levels of care will facilitate disaster preparedness.

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