Can Storms Like Bomb Cyclones Cause Early Labor? Experts Are Divided
Hunkering down for a winter storm is enough to put anyone's anxiety into overdrive. But if you're a pregnant mom who's close to her delivery date, it puts a whole additional layer of worry upon the impending acts of nature — both from the storm and from your body. Can storms like bomb cyclones cause early labor? Experts are divided.
While it might sound like folklore or an old wives tale, there may be some truth to the idea that weather can bring on labor.
This week, a blizzard-like winter storm is making its way through Colorado and moving towards the Great Plains and parts of the Midwest, according to CNN. Meteorologists are calling it a bomb cyclone, a phenomenon that happens when there's a rapid drop in barometric pressure.
"There's definitely a belief out there," Dr. Jonathan Schaffir, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Ohio State University College of Medicine told Live Science. "It's certainly not cut-and-dried, but there is some scientific evidence that changes in pressure can contribute to membrane rupture."
The idea is that a woman's amniotic sac is sort of similar to a balloon, and pressure on the balloon will make it pop, thus putting the woman into labor, according to Live Science.
There's debate on whether this is true or not. And while there are two studies out there that debunked the myth, there are also two that confirmed it.
Researchers conducted a retrospective study of women who gave birth between January 1997 and December 2003, to see if there was a correlation between drops in air pressure and ruptured membranes (water breaking) and the start of early labor.
As it turns out, they found that there was a significant increase in the number of deliveries when the barometric pressure dropped. Days that there were the biggest change in barometric pressure meant even more deliveries, according to the study.
Taking into account that the barometric pressure of the storm will be the same as that of a class 2 hurricane, according to the Denver Post, could we see more births during the bomb cyclone?
For Dr. Salih Yasin, an obstetrician, studies like the one above aren't necessarily reliable, as there was not enough difference in barometric pressure to conclude weather it had an affect on labor or not, according to Live Science.
So as you can, the conclusion is split.
To bring it into perspective, the storm is affecting a 1.5 million square miles of the United States and over 55 people million are under the threat of high winds; over 10 million people are dealing with winter storm threats; and over 17 million are dealing with a flood threat, according to CNN. That could, potentially, include a lot of expectant mothers in the storm's path.
The storm is expected to bring some of the lowest pressure readings ever recorded in eastern Colorado, according to CBS Denver.
"It is widely thought that pressure differences between the outside and inside of your body can trigger symptoms within," Robyn Horsager-Boehrer, M.D of UT Southwestern Medical Center, wrote in an article for the medical center's website. "Among health care professionals and labor and delivery nurses, there is a strong belief that falling barometric pressure results in an increase of spontaneous rupture of membranes and increased rates of spontaneous labor."
She goes on to say that it's the labor and delivery nurses that would be the best judge on weather this belief is true or not.
"In one survey, three-quarters of L&D nurses believed there was an effect from the weather. Most professionals come to this conclusion after spending hours working on a labor and delivery unit," Horsager-Boehrer said. "It just seems that L&D gets a little busier when the weather gets bad. And it seems plausible, especially given the other effects barometric pressure seems to have on our bodies."
But there's still no firm scientific link, she stressed. There are simply too many factors to take into account to truly prove or disprove it once and for all.
One thing pregnant women can do is make sure they have a plan in place, just in case they do go into labor during the big storm, according to CBS Philadelphia. Get in touch with your doctor, check in with emergency contacts, stock up on supplies, and know your way to the closest medical professional.
Will hospitals see a baby boom this week due to the bomb cyclone? It's yet to be seen. But, there's one thing that's certain. Moms who brave the storm to deliver will sure have a good story to tell to their kids one day.