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Pregnancy Increases Risk of Car Accidents

Update Date: May 12, 2014 12:09 PM EDT

Pregnant women should be extra cautious when getting behind the wheel. According to a new study, researchers found that pregnancy can increase one's risk of getting into serious traffic crashes. These crashes lead to an increase risk of fetal death, chronic disability and complicated emergency medical care, the press release reported.

"Pregnant women often worry about air flights, scuba diving, hot tubs and other topics in maternal health, yet individuals may overlook traffic crashes despite their greater health risks," said lead author Dr. Donald Redelmeier, a researcher with the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) and a physician at the Department of Medicine, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario.

The researchers examined the link between common symptoms of pregnancy, such as nausea, fatigue, insomnia and distractions, and risk of getting into a car accident. Statistically, around one in every 50 pregnant women gets into some kind of car accident. In this study, the team reviewed data on 507,262 pregnant women.

The researchers reported that within the three years prior to pregnancy, there were 6,922 crashes, which translated to a rate of 177 each month. During the second trimester of pregnancy, the researchers found that there were 757 crashes or 252 per month. The rate of traffic crashes during pregnancy represented a 42 percent increased risk. The researchers did not find a link between serious traffic accident risk and pregnant women who were passengers or pedestrians.

"These findings are not a reason to decide not to have children or a reason to stop driving; instead, the findings primarily emphasize the need to drive more carefully," Dr. Redelmeier stressed. "Even a minor motor vehicle crash during pregnancy could lead to irreparable consequences for mother and child. These findings underscore the importance of prevention and indicate that good prenatal care includes safe driving."

The study, "Pregnancy and the risk of a traffic crash," was published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

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