This guide was created by Kayla Alamilla, a 2022 community reporting fellow for Southerly, a non-profit media organization that equips communities in the South facing environmental injustices with journalism, resources, and information.
If you would like to order a zine or learn how to make your own DIY resource guide, reach Kayla at STAYSAFEZINE@GMAIL.COM.
Download the guide below to share digitally, or reach out to Kayla to access a print copy. We will be printing in Spanish soon.
A note from the author
Working in reproductive healthcare and community engagement in Naples, Florida, I learned there are many factors that affect someone’s access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive care, including race, economic status, age, personal or community beliefs, and location. As southwest Floridians, we have many political barriers to reproductive freedom and face an additional, dangerous environmental one: intensifying disasters like hurricanes.
Due to the stigma around sex and sexual health, some may feel afraid or embarrassed to seek checkups or treatment, or abortions. This stigma can keep resources hidden—something especially dangerous during the vulnerable time of disaster recovery.
I wanted to create a shame-free and compassionate guide to not only provide our community resources when they need it most, but to destigmatize the conversation on sexual and reproductive health.
Reproductive and climate injustice: What do they have in common?
Reproductive injustice and climate injustice both impact marginalized people, including communities of color, migrant communities, rural communities, working-class communities, LGBTQ+ communities, disabled communities, and elderly communities.
Here are some examples of what that injustice looks like with reproductive healthcare:
- Clinic and hospital closures
- Lack of transportation (i.e. bus/train routes, bike routes)
- Slower recovery time and fewer sources of funding
- Increased vulnerability to intimate partner violence
- Lack of access to treatment and medications
According to sexologist Pepper Schwartz, when a disaster occurs, it can trigger our fight and flight responses, releasing hormones such as our dopamine, testosterone, and estrogen—all of which can stimulate our libido.
It is perfectly normal to want and have the comfort and pleasure of sex during a stressful event such as a hurricane. Everyone deserves to have protection to limit their chances of sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancy.
WANT TO GET INVOLVED? Work with or advocate for your local health clinics and providers to create and distribute inclusive and safe sexual health kits!
Want to make your own sexual health emergency kit?
Some things you can include are:
- At least three months of your regular birth control supply
- Condoms to protect you from sexually transmitted infections
- Emergency contraception pills (also called Plan B or morning after pill)
- Medication such as PrEP, which can reduce your chance of getting HIV
- Any prescribed medications for STI treatment
Sexual violence and disasters
After a disaster, the rates of sexual assaults, physical abuse, and human trafficking can increase, especially in vulnerable populations such as LGBTQ+ people, migrant workers, and people with disabilities, according to the CDC. This is often due to financial stress, heightened mental health issues caused by trauma, and substance use, as well as lack of access to safety. Temporary housing and crowded shelters may also lead to aggressive behavior, including sexual aggression, according to the Center for Disaster Philanthropy.
For more information, check out: Sexual Violence in Disasters: A Planning Guide for Prevention and Response by the Louisiana Foundation Against Sexual Assault (LaFASA) & National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC)
Coined by disability activist Mia Mingus in 2014, a “pod” is made up of people you would call on if violence, harm, or abuse happened to you. This is especially useful to create prior to a hurricane when emergency services may be limited or difficult to access. Create your own below!
Pregnancy and parenting during disasters
- Be sure to have enough food and water to last at least 7 days.
- Know where to go for safety if you need to evacuate
- Notify family members or friends to let them know where you will be
- Make sure to have a copy of your medical records, and a two-week supply of any medications you are taking, including prenatal vitamins
There will be a period of cleanup and recovery post-disaster. Be careful not to become dehydrated and/or over-tired. Heavy labor and dehydration can contribute to premature labor.
To prevent dehydration and exhaustion:
- Drink plenty of water (at least 8 cups a day) or beverages that do not contain alcohol
- Bathe when you can
- Try to stay in the shade as much as possible. If you have to be outside in the heat, bring water and a hat or umbrella to provide shade
- Do not lift heavy objects
To decrease stress:
- Try to lie down on your left side three times a day, even if only for 10-15 minutes
- Take deep breaths from your belly. You should see your stomach rise with each breath
- Find a designated and trusted buddy (someone from your pod map!) to discuss your fears and feelings with when stress occurs
Call your health care provider or a hospital right away if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Contractions (when your tummy tightens like a fist every 10 minutes or more often)
- A change in vaginal discharge such as leaking fluid or any bleeding
- Pelvic pressure, or a feeling like your baby is pushing down
- Low dull backache or cramps that feel like your period might be starting
- Diarrhea with contractions
If your health care provider’s office is closed, or you have had to evacuate, go to the nearest emergency room or call a local hospital, county health department, or Healthy Start Coalition to get information about prenatal care and the location of hospitals
- Breastfeeding is a safe and effective way to feed a child in an emergency. Human milk is always clean, requires no fuel, water, or electricity, and is readily available when baby and nursing parent are kept close.
- Human milk contains antibodies that fight infection, including diarrhea and respiratory infections that are common among infants in emergency situations such as hurricanes and tropical storms.
- Breastfeeding releases hormones that lower stress and anxiety in both the child and the nursing parent. Especially when stressed, it is important to continue offering the breast or expressing milk at regular intervals.
- If a baby (or parent) becomes ill, continuing breastfeeding provides baby with human antibodies that fight the illness.
Check out this guide from La Leche League USA for more info on:
- Expressing Milk During A Hurricane
- Feeding Expressed Milk During A Hurricane
- Leaving Frozen Milk Behind
- Evacuating with Frozen Milk
What to know if you’re using formula:
- Clean water may not be available. Find ready-to-feed formula so you don’t have to clean bottles or nipples.
- Feeding your baby with a small disposable cup is preferable
- Unused formula cannot be refrigerated during a power outage, so small containers of formula work best.
Find a list of emergency kit supplies and more at getreadyforflu.org.
As of December 2022, Florida has a 15-week abortion ban. There are only three abortion providers in Collier County and Lee County. Reproductive health experts say access to contraceptives is more crucial than ever—especially in hurricane-prone areas such as southwest Florida. (For more information on anti-abortion policies, check out the Center for Reproductive Rights.)
Abortion is a common and critical part of reproductive health care: About 1 in 4 women will obtain an abortion by age 45, according to Guttmacher Institute. However, it is not often considered in disaster-related discussions and studies.
Disasters can create more barriers to abortion care, including interrupting travel, childcare, and clinic access. Fortunately, there are organizations and mutual aid groups who can assist you. If you are scheduled for an abortion, or need an abortion after a disaster, check out the trusted, judgement-free resources below.