Julian Gutierrez drifted beyond his lane of travel and struck a car traveling in the opposite direction. Judith Mauricio, the driver of the other car, was severely injured in this head-on collision. Mauricio was also eight months pregnant at the time. After arriving at the hospital, she delivered a still-born baby girl. The Los Angeles Police determined Gutierrez had been operating under the influence and arrested him.
Canadian Medical Association Study
Donald Redelmeier and a team from the University of Toronto studied the health risks associated with pregnant women who are involved in severe car accidents. Their findings revealed pregnant women in their second trimester were the most likely to be involved in a serious car accident. In the third trimester, these risks dropped considerably below the likelihood of a major crash before the pregnancy and after giving birth. Overall, approximately 2% of women were likely to be in an accident during the course of pregnancy.
Redelmeier’s team analyzed 500,000 women who had given birth across a five-year period. They reviewed data beginning three years before their pregnancy, through the first year after delivering. The study considered whether some of the adverse effects of pregnancy such as fatigue and nausea may make these women more vulnerable. A total of 6,922 crashes occurred during this span, a ratio of 4.5 accidents per 1,000 women. This equates to an average that is over twice the normal average of two accidents per 1,000 people. Part of the reason for the increase in crashes among this segment is expected, as most of these women in their reproductive years are comparatively young.
The first month of the second trimester was the highest time for car accidents. In this month, the rate rose to 7.6 crashes per 1,000 women while the overall second trimester rate was 6.5 per 1,000. This trend existed across all variables including age, income, and more. The period with the least number of incidents was the final month of pregnancy, where the numbers fell to 2.7 per 1,000 women.
Signs that may indicate a problem among pregnant women involved in accidents include the following:
- Pain in belly, pelvis, or abdominal regions
- Vaginal bleeding or other unusual discharging
- Any period of unconsciousness
- Fever and/or chills
- Feeling faint or dizzy.
The health of unborn babies is very dependent on the mother’s condition, as they share blood and oxygen that deliver nutrients. There are several significant potential risks that may occur in severe accidents.
- Placental separation. The placenta delivers oxygen and necessary nutrients to the baby. Any separation from the uterus can be extremely dangerous for the fetus—and potentially the mother.
- Birth defects. The brain or other parts of the body may be damaged upon impact. There is a possibility of long-term cognitive deficiencies or problems with development.
- Pregnancy loss. The death of a fetus in the first 20 weeks is considered a miscarriage. Those occurring beyond this period are referred to as a stillbirth.
Best Pregnancy Practices: Driving
Fortunately, in cases of a collision, the baby is unlikely to be harmed as they are shielded by uterus muscles and amniotic fluid. Always wear your seatbelt, which should be fastened below the belly. Consider adjusting the seat back and placing a small pillow between the seatbelt and the belly. Remember to properly adjust the headrest. Travel in close proximity to your home and always bring your mobile phone along.
Best Pregnancy Practices: After an Accident
The most important practice for expecting mothers involved in vehicle accidents is to promptly seek medical attention. The doctor will check the baby’s heart rate and may conduct an ultrasound as a preventative measure. If there was direct impact to the belly region, you may receive a Rhogam injection.
Vehicle accidents may be traumatic, and expecting mothers may be particularly distressed at these times. The key for the mother is to seek immediate medical attention. If the accident was the result of a negligent motorist, it is best to speak with a personal injury attorney who can tend to any legal concerns while you focus on your health.