Car Accident Injury Risk Substantially Increased During Pregnancy: Study

Pregnancy may put women at higher risk of being involved in an car accident resulting in the need for emergency medical treatment, according to the findings of new research. 

In a study published this week in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ), researchers found that women in their second trimester had a 42% increased risk of being involved in a serious traffic accident, compared to when they were not pregnant.

Researchers followed more than 500,000 women before becoming pregnant through the time they gave birth from April 1, 2006, to March 31, 2011.

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The study focused on nearly 7,000 traffic accidents involving the group of women during a three year timeframe before they became pregnant. The data was then compared to 757 car accidents which occurred during their second trimester of pregnancy.

The differences revealed a 42% increase in traffic accidents during pregnancy. In the three years before pregnancy, the group of women had an average of 177 accidents per month. During their second trimester, the group of women averaged 252 traffic collisions per month.

Researchers from the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) conclude that pregnant women have a higher risk of being involved in a serious car accident requiring medical care during their second trimester. The accidents place both mother and baby at risk of death, chronic disability and complicated medical care.

Dr. Donald Redelmeier, lead author and physician at the University of Toronto ‘s Department of Medicine, says certain pregnancy conditions may play a role in the increased risk, such as nausea, fatigue, insomnia and distraction. All common pregnancy ailments may place pregnant women at higher risk of error resulting in a traffic crash.

Researchers found the risk was the same across diverse populations and differing crash characteristics. The study excluded women under the age of 18 and those living outside of Ontario.

Overall, one in 50 women will be involved in a motor vehicle collision during pregnancy, researchers warn. They concluded that the study’s findings emphasize the importance of safe driving habits, such as avoiding excess speed, always wearing a seatbelt, always signaling a turn, yielding the right of way, obeying stop signs and minimizing distractions when driving.

“Even a minor motor vehicle crash during pregnancy could lead to irreparable consequences for mother and child,” states Dr. Redelmeier. “These findings underscore the importance of prevention and indicate that good prenatal care includes safe driving.”

Some expectant mothers voiced concerns that seat belts could harm their unborn children. However, researchers from Duke University found that a pregnant women’s use of seat belts is more likely to save the lives of an unborn child and its mother, according to a study published last year in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

In spite of the increased risk for pregnant women to be involved in car accidents during the second trimester, Redelmeier and his team noted the risk is still lower than that among men of the same age group.

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