Women who are involved in a car accident while pregnant may be at risk not only for standard injuries, but also for other injuries unique to their medical condition.
In an accident, a pregnant woman may suffer fractures, whiplash injuries, blunt force trauma injuries, head injuries, and other types of injuries. Apart from these, more serious complications can affect not only her health, but also the health of the baby.
What injuries are unique to pregnant women in car accidents?
Pregnant occupants of a car involved in an accident are at risk of placental abruption. This is a condition in which the placenta separates from the uterine lining. Placental abruption occurs in up to 5 percent of minor accidents, and between 20 and 50 percent of severe accidents that occur during the pregnancy.
The placenta is the main route for delivery of nutrition and oxygen to the baby before birth. If there is a separation of the placenta from the uterine lining before the woman goes into labor, there is a blockage in the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the baby. This is a serious complication, and is often life-threatening.
One of the complications associated with placental abruption is that it cannot be diagnosed before the birth. Therefore, even if you have been involved in a minor car accident, see a doctor immediately. A doctor may look for signs like bleeding, contractions and pain to determine the risk of placental abruption in your case.
Pregnant women are also at risk of uterine injuries, including rupture and lacerations. Injury to the uterus can easily occur because the uterus is swollen and larger during pregnancy. Although such injuries are rare, the risk of fetal death if the mother suffers a uterine rupture is almost 100 percent.
A pregnant woman may also suffer a direct fetal injury. Fetal injuries occur in less than 10 percent of accidents involving pregnant occupants, and injuries can occur even in a minor or moderate impact accident. These can include head, thorax, and abdominal injuries. Fetal head injuries are the most common, because the fetal head is the largest part of the body, and is likely to attract a much more significant impact.
What are the other negative outcomes a pregnant woman may experience in an accident?
Other common negative outcomes of an accident when you are pregnant include:
- Premature delivery
- Low birth weight
- Emergency delivery which can be risky to the mother and baby
- Early contractions which can result in premature delivery
- Other complications
If contractions begin early, the child may have to be delivered prematurely which can mean low birth weight, neonatal respiratory distress syndrome because of partially developed lungs, and other health problems. These health problems can translate into chronic health conditions and disabilities that can last throughout the child's life. Emergency C-sections are also high-risk procedures that pose a significant health risk to the mother as well as the baby.
How can pregnant women reduce the risk of injuries in an accident?
Studies have indicated that the risk of maternal injury and fetal injury is much higher when the pregnant woman is unrestrained at the time of the accident. Wearing a seat belt is the biggest factor preventing injuries in an accident. Always wear a seat belt while driving and riding in a car.
I was involved in a car accident while pregnant. What should I do?
An accident is traumatic for anyone, but for someone who is pregnant, the trauma can be immense. If you were involved in an accident while you were pregnant, the first thing to do to see a doctor immediately, even in the case of a minor impact accident.