A registered nurse working the night shift in what is now the UofL Center for Women and Infants (CWI) at the University of Louisville Hospital, she realized that the unit became busier and busier as Thunder Over Louisville progressed.

The kick-off event to the Kentucky Derby Festival, Thunder Over Louisville is a fireworks display over the Ohio River in downtown Louisville. People arrive early in the day to see an air show and take part in other activities.

Working in labor and delivery during Thunder, Wright saw how the event made a difference in the unit.

“We would have the usual number of patients during the day of Thunder, but as the evening wore on, in came more and more of our ladies” as she calls CWI patients. “It was a noticeable phenomenon.”

That phenomenon became known as “Thunder Babies” at the CWI. The booming noise and vibrations caused by Thunder Over Louisville’s air show and fireworks appear to stimulate babies in the womb. The heat of the day and dehydration coupled with it can cause some expectant mothers to experience cramping and contractions, while others actually go into labor.

“I never actually counted the number of our ladies coming in as it was happening, but we all just knew there was an increase,” said Wright, who today is clinical nurse manager at the CWI and is certified in electrical fetal monitoring.

CWI records reveal data that confirm her impressions of an increase associated with Thunder. On other days of the year, there is no discernible difference between the numbers of triage visits at the CWI before and after 6 p.m. However, on the day Thunder was held in 2011, April 15, there was a 30 percent increase in triage visits after 6 p.m. as compared to those occurring before 6 p.m. The records from 2012 show more, a 40 percent increase in triage visits during the same timeframe on Thunder’s date of April 21.

“What’s more, in 2012, our Thunder Babies accounted for 40 percent of all deliveries that day,” Wright said.

What expectant mothers should know before attending Thunder

So, should expectant moms avoid Thunder? Absolutely not, said Wright.

“We want our ladies to enjoy Thunder and have a good time; they just need to take a few precautions,” she said. She provides these tips for expectant mothers attending the event:

  • Drink lots of water. “The weather can be hot, and pregnant women get dehydrated faster than others. You need to remember to drink water throughout the day – not soda or tea.”
  • Take frequent breaks. “Sit down and put your feet up as often as you can.”
  • Relax and don’t push yourself. “Don’t overdo the day. Walk more slowly than normal, avoid getting jostled by the crowds and avoid the carnival rides. In general, don’t get stressed out.”
  • Eat well. “Of course, one funnel cake or a corndog probably won’t hurt you, but do remember to eat healthy; fresh fruits and vegetables are best. Bring your own healthy snacks to help you avoid overdoing on the festival food.”
  • Don’t drink alcohol or take unprescribed drugs. “This is true all the time, not only during Thunder: An expectant mother should never drink or take any drug that has not been approved by her physician.”
  • Don’t be alone. “Attend the event with someone, preferably an adult, who can help you throughout the day and in case you experience any problems.”
  • Attend to any symptoms immediately. “If you start having cramps or contractions, get off your feet immediately and drink water; if you have more than four contractions in an hour, get to the CWI immediately. And if you start discharging blood or water or you no longer feel your baby inside you, don’t wait; get to the CWI as fast you can.” The CWI is housed in University Hospital, 530 S. Jackson St.

Saturday, April 20, the day for Thunder Over Louisville 2013, CWI will be fully staffed and ready to care for expectant mothers who need attention and to guide new lives into the world, Wright said.

“All of our ladies, their babies and their families hold a special place in our hearts, and we are happy to welcome any new Thunder Babies who join us in 2013.”

Jill Scoggins is Director of Communications at UofL's Louis D. Brandeis School of Law. She has been at UofL since 2010.