If you’ve lived in Hurricane Alley long enough, you’ve heard about the phenomenon of “hurricane babies”—nine months after a big storm, there’s a spike in births.
The hurricane baby thing? It’s totally real.
There have been a number of studies that look at birth rates after big natural disasters. There is evidence that in fact, starting about nine months after a hurricane, you can expect a baby boom in a lot of places.
But when you start digging into the research, there’s more to it than the lights going out.
“People are sexually active and that’s not going to change,” says Dr. Ophra Leyser-Whalen, a professor of sociology at the University of Texas at El Paso.
A couple of years ago, she worked on a study of contraceptive use after Hurricane Ike.
What Leyser-Whalen and her colleagues found is that the hurricane disrupted access for women who depended on birth control. It put particular strain on groups that already had a well-documented history of disparities in access to care.
“And we found that African-American women particularly hard time accessing the Depo-Provera shot,” says Leyser-Whalen. “We also found all women engaged in unprotected sex.”
Depo-Provera is a hormone injection form of birth control. The shot has to be given every 12 weeks to keep working.
After a storm, clinics shut down. Women get displaced far from their providers. Unprotected sex happens.
In another study, researchers saw a 60 percent drop in family planning services among women who evacuated after Hurricane Katrina.
That study concluded with the recommendation that there needs to be better planning to make sure women have access to their contraceptives before and after a storm.
Until that happens, Leyser-Whalen suggests thinking a little differently about what it means to stay safe during and after a hurricane:
“Perhaps stocking up on condoms, and using condoms in the meantime.”