Pregnant Women Drivers | Driving While Pregnant Is Riskier Than You Might Think: Car Crash Risk Spikes Nearly 50% In Second Trimester
Pregnancy comes with a long list of do’s and don’ts. Now it looks like we might need to add another item to that list: Drive more carefully. Pregnant women may be at a much higher risk of car crashes than those without babies on board, especially during the second trimester, according to a surprising new study that urges moms-to-be to drive extra carefully.
During the second trimester of pregnancy, a woman’s odds of being behind the wheel in a multi-vehicle accident that was bad enough to send her to a hospital emergency room were 42% greater than they were in the three years before she became pregnant, according to a study published Monday in CMAJ, the Canadian Medical Assn. Journal. However, by the third trimester, the risk was significantly lower than it was before pregnancy, and it fell even further in the first year after the women gave birth.
“It amounts to about a 1 in 50 statistical risk of the average women having a motor vehicle crash at some point during her pregnancy,” said Dr. Donald Redelmeier of the University of Toronto, who led the study.
Before pregnancy, the study found, the crash rate was about 4.5 per 1 000 women each year. The rate was similar during the first trimester of pregnancy, but then rose to almost 7.7 crashes per 1 000 women during the first month of the second trimester. During the third trimester, car accidents dipped again.
“Almost all traffic crashes could be prevented by a small change in driver behavior. The absolute risks among pregnant women, however, are still lower than among men of this age,” Redelmeier added.
The study, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, said the various “physiological and lifestyle changes” involved with pregnancy, such as “intermittent nausea, general fatigue, unintended distraction and sleep disruption,” might contribute to the accidents.
“Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of fetal death related to maternal trauma.”
While the results of this study are interesting, it’s important not to stigmatize pregnant women drivers based on these findings. In other words: being pregnant while driving is a far cry from driving under the influence or texting at the wheel.
In their paper, the researchers mention the effects of “baby brain” – a mental “fog” said to be associated with pregnancy – but stop short of linking it directly to a heightened risk of car accidents.
What should pregnant women drivers take away from the findings? They suggested that pregnant women drivers avoid excessive speeding, minimize distractions, obey stop signs, utilize turn signals, wear seatbelts and yield the right of way. Redelmeier reminded pregnant women drivers that “(e)ven a minor motor vehicle crash during pregnancy could lead to irreparable consequences for mother and child,” concluding that their “findings underscore the importance of prevention and indicate that good prenatal care includes safe driving.”