As if pregnant women don’t have enough to worry about, a new study has found that those with babies on board are at a much higher risk of being involved in auto accidents, especially during the second trimester.
Canadian researchers studied the records of over 500,000 women in a six-year period, comparing their risk of auto accidents before, during, and after pregnancy. The numbers jumped up significantly (from 177 to 252 car crashes per month) during pregnancy. That’s a 42 percent increased relative risk of being in an auto accident when pregnant than when not (though we’re not sure if they’re also comparing pregnant women to new mothers who are sleep-deprived and incredibly distracted while driving).
The risk is especially high during the first month of the second trimester. Perhaps women are finally feeling better at this point in their pregnancy after an exhausting and sickness-filled first trimester and they’re getting out more, putting them on the highways more regularly and increasing their risk of crashing in general. They may be rushing around trying to get things ready for the baby and feeling good, which contributes to distraction and a false sense of security.
Researchers who conducted the study also point to hormones, documented brain changes, and other effects of pregnancy that may affect expectant mothers more than they realize, perhaps impacting their driving skills, reflexes, and concentration. It was noted in the Canadian Medical Association Journal that car crashes are the leading cause of fetal death linked to trauma in mothers. The risk of accidents is higher in the afternoons (that long commute home), in bad weather, and during the fall and winter.
So why aren’t incredibly pregnant women in their third trimester at a greater risk of being involved in an auto accident? The research reports that physical changes are so obvious by then that there is a very present reminder to be more careful, not to mention a woman’s support system constantly warning her to drive cautiously.
Interestingly enough, the study reports that even at their worst, pregnant women are still better drivers than men of the same age. And there is no recommendation that mothers-to-be stop driving during pregnancy. Awareness of the situation is key, and mamas simply need to drive more carefully. There is already precious cargo on board.